Swiss satellite tech to improve weather forecasting from space

ESA's Aeolus Earth Explorer satellite, which carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever sent into orbit Keystone

The European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite has been launched into polar orbit. Aeolus, which is carrying Swiss technology, will measure winds around the globe and play a key role in understanding the workings of the atmosphere. 

This content was published on August 23, 2018 - 08:34

The mission also aims to improve weather forecasting. It 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. 

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Essential components and embedded instruments are Swiss made. Zurich-based Ruag SpaceExternal link has built the entire satellite structure as well as a mechanism for switching on two laser sources and protecting the optical reception instruments. 

Other Swiss companies such as Thales Alenia Space SwitzerlandExternal link and ConnovaExternal link have also supplied elements of the Aladin laser instrument, which will measure wind speeds with an accuracy of one meter per second. 

New technology 

ESA says Aladin is one of the most sophisticated instruments ever sent into orbit. The first of its kind, it 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. 

The lack of direct global wind measurements is one of the major deficits in the Global Observing System, according to the World Meteorological Organization. By filling this gap, AeolusExternal link will give scientists the information they need to understand how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.

Here is the launch from Kourou, French Guiana, on Wednesday night:

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While Aeolus is set to advance science, it will also benefit society. 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.

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