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UK Will Build First Satellite To Study Wind From Space

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Old November 20th 03, 04:05 PM
Ron Baalke
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Default UK Will Build First Satellite To Study Wind From Space

British National Space Centre
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Wednesday, 22 October, 2003



Europe's pioneering Aeolus satellite will advance weather forecasting

The UK will lead the development of the world's first ever satellite to study
the Earth's wind patterns from space.

The European Space Agency (ESA) today awarded the prime contract to EADS Astrium
(UK), to build the Aeolus satellite.

The satellite, due to be launched on a three-year mission in 2007, will further
our knowledge of the Earth's atmosphere and weather systems by being the first
to provide detailed global surveillance of winds from space. At present, there
are large areas where wind profiles are not regularly observed -- a major
deficiency in the Global Observing System. Aeolus data could lead to major
improvements in forecasters' predictions of extreme weather conditions,
including major storms.

Colin Hicks, Director General of the British National Space Centre, welcomed
ESA's decision to award the contract to a UK firm: "We are pleased that the UK
will lead this important mission. It is recognition of the world-class expertise
we possess in building satellites in this country.

"Aeolus is a historic opportunity to provide the world's first satellite
designed to specifically profile wind from space and will give forecasters an
important edge in predicting extreme weather conditions."

Colin Paynter, Managing Director of EADS Astrium (UK), based in Stevenage,
Hertfordshire, said: "We are extremely pleased that the UK arm of EADS Astrium
has been selected to lead this exciting programme. It is expected that a very
significant amount of the spacecraft cost will be spent in the UK.

"We have been working on the Aeolus programme for many years with colleagues
from ESA, NERC and BNSC and we must thank them for their confidence in our
ability to manage such a complex mission."

EADS Astrium (France) will build the on board instrument ALADIN -- Atmospheric
Laser Doppler Instrument, and EADS Astrium (Germany) will procure platform
electrical subsystems as subcontractors to their UK sister company.

Aeolus data is expected to improve weather forecasts, sometimes significantly.
It will be placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 400 km, enabling
it to collect information from anywhere on the planet. The ALADIN Lidar (laser
detection and radar) instrument will create a wind profile showing the relative
strength and direction of winds at different altitudes.

This is a major step forward in wind analysis. The only wind profile data
available now is from weather balloons, from aircraft and from fixed ground
based radars. This means there are huge gaps in profiling over oceans and
tropical regions. Measurements from Aeolus, which will provide data on a global
basis, are equivalent to launching one balloon every 28 seconds for three years.

Martin Jones, Head of Space Programmes at the Met Office, said the satellite
instrument could become an important new tool for weather forecasters in the UK
as well as globally.

"Direct measurements of wind over the oceans and the tropics could give us the
next breakthrough in improving our hurricane and typhoon forecasts. They could
also give us earlier warning of windstorms developing in the Atlantic and
affecting the UK. We hope this demonstration mission will point the way for
future operational wind-measuring satellites."

The cost of the Aeolus mission is around 300 million euros over approximately
eight years. The UK share of ESA's Earth Observation Envelope Programme
supporting Aeolus is 19.4% -- 57.5 million euros. The UK's Natural Environment
Research Council (NERC) is responsible for Britain's subscription to ESA's
environmental science programmes.

Professor Jose Achache, Director of Earth Observation Programmes at ESA, said:
"Aeolus will be the first wind-lidar in space. It will measure wind profiles on
a global scale, which have been requested by meteorologists for a long time.
Actually, the World Meteorological Organisation has given sensors to measure
global wind profiles a top priority.

"The wind-lidar mission has been studied for about 20 years now, but technology
was not yet matured enough for an implementation. Finally Europe has developed
the demanding technology and thus can go ahead with the full-scale satellite
programme. There are still many technological challenges on the way, but I am
confident that our space industry will master them successfully.

"Aeolus is planned as a pre-operational spacecraft to demonstrate the actual
utility of global wind profiles for weather prediction and other atmospheric
science uses. We expect that a series of Aeolus-type spacecraft will follow to
suit the operational use for routine weather forecasting."


1. EADS Astrium (UK) has successfully completed the design phase of the project.
The new contract will put it in charge of building the satellite, which is due
for launch in 2007 on a three-year mission.

2. The ALADIN instrument will be the first space borne wind lidar offering
global coverage. Measurements will be taken every 0.1 seconds and then averaged
over seven-second period (during which time the satellite will have travelled
50km) to obtain wind profiles from altitudes from 0 to 30 km.

3. The ALADIN instrument is based on the Direct Detection Doppler Wind Lidar
concept, which operates in the near UV band (355 nanometres) and uses a
telescope for both emission and reception. It is an active instrument which
fires laser pulses towards the atmosphere and measures the Doppler shift of the
return signal, backscattered at different levels in the atmosphere. It combines
a fringe-imaging receiver (analysing aerosol and cloud backscatter) and a
double-edge receiver (analysing molecular backscatter) in a single instrument.
The two scattering mechanisms have different spectral properties and wavelength

4. The Natural Environment Research Council is one of seven UK Research
Councils. It leads in providing independent research and training in the
environmental sciences and is responsible for the UK's subscription to ESA's
environmental science programmes.

5. BNSC is a partnership of Government Departments and Research Councils with an
interest in the development or exploitation of space technologies. BNSC is the
UK Government body responsible for UK civil space policy, to help gain the best
possible scientific, economic and social benefits from putting space to work.


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