A satellite launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) will measure winds around the globe with an aim to help improve weather forecasting.
The satellite was launched on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on August 22 at 21:20 GMT.
The Earth Explorer 'Aeolus' satellite was launched into polar orbit and it will use laser technology to better understand the workings of our atmosphere.
According to the European Space Agency, the satellite has been named after Aeolus, who in Greek mythology was appointed ‘keeper of the winds’.
Aeolus satellite is the fifth in the family of ESA’s Earth Explorers aiming to address the most urgent Earth-science questions of our time.
“Aeolus epitomises the essence of an Earth Explorer. It will fill a gap in our knowledge of how the planet functions and demonstrate how cutting-edge technology can be used in space,” ESA Director General Jan Worner said.
According to Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Aeolus carries the first instrument of its kind and uses a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.
“Such pioneering technology has meant that it has been a demanding mission to develop, but thanks to all the teams involved we are thrilled that this extraordinary satellite is now in orbit. We look forward to it living up to expectations,” Aschbacher said.
Since the lack of direct global wind measurements is one of the major deficits in the Global Observing System, Aeolus will fill this gap and provide scientists with the information they need to understand how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked.
This new mission will provide insight into how the wind influences the exchange of heat and moisture between Earth’s surface and the atmosphere — important aspects for understanding climate change.
Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds — a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.
Although weather forecasts have advanced considerably in recent years, Aeolus will provide global wind profiles to improve the accuracy even further. In addition, its data will be used in air-quality models to improve forecasts of dust and other airborne particles that affect public health.
The satellite is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Germany. Controllers will spend the next few months carefully checking and calibrating the mission as part of its commissioning phase.
(With agency inputs)