In just 36 months, the development and construction of the Arctic meteorological satellite by ESA has been achieved. This technical feat has culminated in the shipment of the microsatellite from OHB’s facilities in Sweden to Germany, where it is undergoing a series of tests to ensure its endurance during launch next year and its subsequent life in orbit.
The Arctic Meteorological Satellite, as its name suggests, expected to significantly improve weather forecasts in the Arctica region that currently lacks crucial data for accurate short-term forecasting.
Today, satellites in geostationary and polar orbits provide a wealth of vital information for meteorologists in weather prediction. However, coverage in the Arctic remains limitedsince geostationary satellites lack visibility in this northern region.
The Arctic weather satellite is just the precursor of a potential satellite constellation, known as EPS-Sterna, which ESA would build for Eumetsat in case the prototype Arctic weather satellite works as expected. The EPS-Sterna mission is planned as a constellation of six microsatellites distributed in three different orbits, providing an almost constant stream of temperature and humidity data from anywhere on Earth.
This advance will allow, for the first time, make very short-term weather predictions in the Arctic. The array of six microsatellites would be replaced three times. Although the main focus is on the Arctic, meteorologists will also take advantage of this constellation to improve weather forecasts on a global scale. However, before that, the prototype Arctic weather satellite must demonstrate its functionality.
Therefore, by adopting the New Space methodology to test new concepts in an efficient and timely manner, This new satellite has been developed and built in record time. Just 36 months have passed since ESA awarded the main contract to OHB in Sweden and construction of the satellite was completed.
Ville Kangas, ESA’s Arctic Meteorological Satellite project manager, highlighted that “the instrument, a microwave radiometer, was delivered to OHB by Omnisys, the instrument’s prime contractor, in October and was integrated into the satellite platform. And now, thanks to the commitment of the companies involved, we have a complete satellite.”
The satellite is equipped with a 19-channel cross-scan microwave radiometer, leveraging legacy microwave sounder technology developed for the second-generation MetOp satellites.
Ville added that “as we reach another milestone this month, we have also tested the connections between the satellite and the mission control center at KSAT, Tromsø, Norway, and everything has gone according to plan.
“Once these critical phases have been passed, the satellite has been sent to IABG in Germany for a series of environmental tests, scheduled until February 2024.” These tests involve expose the satellite to vibrations and noise simulating the launch, as well as the temperature variations in the vacuum of space that it will face during its Earth orbit.
Once these tests are completed, the satellite will return to OHB in Sweden for final checks before shipment to SpaceX’s launch complex in Vandenberg, California, in April. Liftoff is scheduled for June 1, 2024 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.