ESA’s Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite has been launched into polar orbit on a Vega rocket. Using revolutionary laser technology, Aeolus will measure winds around the globe and play a key role in our quest to better understand the workings of our atmosphere. Importantly, this novel mission will also improve weather forecasting.
Carrying the 1360 kg Aeolus satellite, the Vega rocket lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST, 18:20 local time) on 22 August.
Some 55minutes later, Vega’s upper stage delivered Aeolus into orbit and contact was established through theTroll ground station in Antarctica at 00:30 CEST on 23 August.
Named after Aeolus, who in Greek mythology was appointed ‘keeper of the winds’ by the Gods, this novel mission is the fifth in the family of ESA’s Earth Explorers, which 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,” said Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.
ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, added, “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!”
Highlighted by the World Meteorological Organization, the lack of direct global wind measurements is one of the major deficits in the Global Observing System.
By filling this gap, Aeolus will give scientists 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.
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.
The satellite is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Controllers will spend the next few months carefully checking and calibrating the mission as part of its commissioning phase.
The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.
ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.
ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.