A new generation of European weather satellites is set to bring weather forecasting capabilities to the next level. The first of these latest-generation weather satellites, the Meteosat Third Generation Imager, MTG-I 1, is scheduled for launch on 13 December 2022. Over the next decade in total six MTG satellites will be sent to space. “All of these satellites use key technology from us. Our computer controls the satellite, our thermal insulation protects it from cold and heat in space and various mechanisms from us guarantee a smooth operation of the satellite”, says André Wall, CEO Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space). The first of the six weather satellites will lift-off from the European spaceport in Kourou, South America, aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. Thales Alenia Space France is the overall prime contractor and responsible for the Imager Satellites, OHB System AG is responsible for the Sounder Satellites and in charge of all platforms with the “brain”.
Central satellite computer
The central computer of the in total six Meteosat Third Generation satellites were developed and built at Beyond Gravity’s site in Gothenburg, Sweden. “The computer’s main task is to control and, if necessary, correct the satellite’s position with the aid of numerous control and measurement systems,” explains Anders Linder, EVP Division Satellites at Beyond Gravity. Beyond Gravity also developed and produced the Data Distribution Unit, which processes and sends down all the instrument data via Ka-band, and S-bands antennas for transmitting telecommands and telemetry.
The weather satellite is wrapped in thermal insulation from Beyond Gravity to protect it from the high temperature fluctuations of plus/minus 200 degrees Celsius in space. The insulation consists of several layers of very thin metal-coated plastic. “Only this multilayer insulation can keep the interior of the satellites at a uniform temperature level, and thus guarantee the smooth functioning of the instruments on board,” says Anders Linder.
Mechanisms align the solar arrays towards the sun
The precise alignment of the solar panels for optimum power supply to the satellite is achieved by a mechanism from Beyond Gravity. Furthermore, Beyond Gravity delivered refocusing mechanisms to ensure that the satellite’s instruments regain an optimal, sharp sight after the high vibrations during the rocket launch.
Beyond Gravity delivered a high-tech cover of a huge “sun visor” for MTG. The sun visor or camera cover (Solar Baffle Cover Assembly) has a diameter of about one meter and protects the satellite’s instruments from contamination during launch. Once in orbit the cover opens up once, and then remains locked in the open position.
Top and brain of Ariane 5 rocket from Beyond Gravity
For the European launch vehicle Ariane 5 Beyond Gravity delivered the top of the rocket, the payload fairing, which protects the satellite during launch and its journey into space. The launcher’s computer (“brain”) and telemetry antenna as well as the separation system, which places the satellite into space, are also from Beyond Gravity.
About MTG: Latest generation of European weather satellites
Meteosat Third Generation is a cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat). ESA is responsible for the definition and implementation of the MTG satellites, while Eumetsat is in charge of operating the satellites.
MTG: Four imaging satellites, two sounder satellites
Following the first and second generation of Europe’s Meteosat weather satellites, the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) will take over to ensure the continuity of data from geostationary orbit, 36'000 km above Earth. To meet more than the 20-year operational life of the mission, the full MTG system comprises six satellites, four imaging satellites (MTG-I) and two sounding satellites (MTG-S).
Better prediction of thunderstorms
The new European weather satellites will improve monitoring and prediction of potentially damaging, weather phenomena such as severe thunderstorms. The earlier detection of such phenomena will increase the available reaction time for issuing severe weather warnings and implementing the necessary measures to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts.
Beyond Gravity, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, is the first startup to combine agility, speed and innovation with decades of experience and proven quality. Approximately 1600 employees at 12 locations in six countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, USA and Finland) develop and manufacture products for satellites and launch vehicles with the goal of advancing humanity and enabling exploration of the world and beyond. Beyond Gravity is the preferred supplier of structures for all types of launch vehicles and a leader in selected satellite products and constellations in the New Space sector. In 2021, the company generated revenues of approximately CHF 319 million. More information at: www.beyondgravity.com
To learn more about Meteosat Third Generation, visit: https://www.eumetsat.int/meteosat-third-generation
Image 1: The weather satellite Meteosat Third Generation is controlled by a computer and protected by thermal insulation from Beyond Gravity. Copyright: ESA/Mlabspace. Download
Image 2: Beyond Gravity produced a high-tech camera cover for Meteosat Third Generation. Copyright: Beyond Gravity, Anna Rauchenberger. Download
Image 3: Beyond Gravity delivered refocusing mechanisms to ensure that the satellite’s instruments regain an optimal, sharp sight after launch. Copyright: Beyond Gravity, Anna Rauchenberger. Download
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