MetOp-A, Long-term monitoring of the weather and climate

Long-term monitoring of the weather and climate

  • In operation
  • First satellite launched 19 October 2006
  • Two further satellites planned
MetOp-A is Europe’s first operational polar-orbiting weather satellite. The satellite carries instruments to monitor the atmosphere and ocean surface.

The satellite is measuring atmospheric temperature and humidity with unprecedented accuracy. It can measure profiles of atmospheric ozone and other trace gases, as well as wind speed and direction over the oceans.

The information it provides is used to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts. It will also help us to assess long-term changes in the Earth’s climate. Future missions are under development to ensure continuity of satellite coverage.

Under a new system, MetOp-A shares a common set of core instruments with polar-orbiting meteorological satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States.

The MetOp payload includes tried and tested instruments from the US with innovative technology developed in Europe. The NOAA satellite carries some of the European instruments.

In approximately five years, MetOp-A will be replaced by MetOp-B and then, eventually, MetOp-C. This series of satellites should therefore deliver continuous, high-quality global meteorological data until at least 2020.

Mission facts

  • MetOp-A was launched on 19 October 2006 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

  • The satellite is monitored and controlled from a ground station on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway.

  • Data from MetOp-A is used on a daily basis by Met Office weather forecasters. Information from the satellite is incorporated into computer simulations of the weather to improve the accuracy of the weather forecast. One and two day forecasts have benefited significantly from the satellite.

  • Unlike other weather satellites which maintain a high geostationary orbit, such as Meteosat, MetOp-A is a polar orbiting satellite. The spacecraft loops around the Earth some 800 km above the surface and is therefore able to observe the planet in closer detail.


Of the instruments on board, five are new generation European instruments, whilst the others have a well-proven heritage and have been provided by NOAA and the French Space Agency (CNES).

MetOp-A can measure temperature and humidity, ocean surface wind speed and direction as well as concentrations of ozone and other trace gases.

The satellite includes a data relay system, linking up to buoys and other data collection devices.

UK involvement

Data from MetOp-A is used by UK meteorologists and scientists on a daily basis.

Astrium Limited designed and built the Microwave Humidity Sounder, which measures surface temperatures on Earth and the humidity in our atmosphere.

The company also built the service module mechanical system for the spacecraft, including the structure and propulsion system.

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