Wind survey satellite launched from French Guyana

Europe have launched a rocket from French Guyana to put a satellite into orbit designed to track global winds. The satellite is supposed to allow for improved weather forecasting and aid disaster relief operations.

ESA launches ‘Aelous‘

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ESA launches wind-monitoring satellite ‘Aelous‘

A rocket holding the Aeolus wind surveying satellite launched from Europe‘s spaceport Kourou, French Guyana on Wednesday, the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed.

The launch took place at 6:20 p.m. local time (2120 UTC) and the flight was scheduled at just 55 minutes from liftoff to separation. The satellite will be placed at an altitude of 320 kilometers (200 miles) above the Earth.

The Aeolus satellite, named after the guardian of wind in Greek mythology, is only equipped with a Doppler wind lidar – an advanced laser system designed to measure global wind patterns from space. It has been described as the world‘s first space mission to acquire profiles of the Earth‘s wind on a global scale.

“Aeolus epitomizes 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,” said Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.

Ironically, the satellite launch was delayed 24 hours because of adverse weather conditions.

Watching the wind

The Doppler lidar transmits short, powerful pulses of ultraviolet light towards earth. Air particles such as moisture, dust and gasses scatter a small fraction of that light energy back to the transceiver, where it is collected and recorded. The delay between the outgoing pulse and the “backscattered” signal reveals the wind‘s direction, speed and distance traveled.

The launch is part of the Copernicus project, a joint effort by the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) to track environmental damage and assist disaster relief operations.

Aeolus is the fifth of ESA‘s planned explorer missions. Others have measured or are measuring the Earth‘s gravity and geomagnetic fields, soil moisture, ocean salinity and frozen expanses known as the cryosphere.

dv/rc (AFP, dpa)

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