Built to improve weather predictions and track global wind patterns, the 1,360-kg (3,000-lb) Aeolus satellite launched into orbit August 22, from Kourou, French Guiana.
After a 24-hour delay due to adverse weather conditions, a Vega rocket provided by satellite launch company Arianespace sent Aeolus into Sun-synchronous orbit. This particular orbit keeps satellites in consistent view of the sun, to help in instances like powering up their solar panels.
Named after a Greek mythology figure deemed by the Gods as “keeper of the winds,” the satellite is the fifth design in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Explores series. According to the company, this mission will be the first to track Earth’s winds 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,” says ESA Director General Jan Wörner.
Aeolus brings the Atmospheric Laser Doppler Instrument (Aladin) instrument into orbit, a sophisticated piece of equipment that’ll measure wind from space utilizing a new approach.
The Doppler wind lidar sends short pulses of laser light in the ultraviolet spectrum toward Earth. The light is scattered by particles in the air that move with the wind, such as dust, moisture, and gases. The transceiver will then collect and record the returning light.
The delay between an outgoing pulse and the “backscattered” signal can reveal wind speed, direction, and total distance traveled.
“The lidar’s near-real-time observations will provide reliable wind profiles, further improving the accuracy of numerical weather and climate prediction, as well as advance the understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability,” according to Arianespace.
ESA’s European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, is currently controlling the satellite. Over the next few months, the controllers will continue the commissioning phase, where they will check and calibrate the mission.
You can learn more about the Aeolus satellite’s inner workings in the video below, courtesy of the ESA/ATG medialab.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense