University of Leicester in new space mission for weather and climate
Last night, at 21:36 GMT (22:36 BST), an Ariane 5 rocket propelled the third Meteosat Second Generation (MSG-3) satellite into space, alongside a massive telecommunications satellite Echostar XVII.
MSG-3 boasts not only a high quality imager for weather forecasting but also a UK-built climate instrument, the third Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB-3) which will view the Earth from orbit above the Equator. The GERB instruments provide a unique “eye on the world” for climate.
The GERB-3 experiment is the latest in a series of GERB instruments on the MSG satellites providing scientists with a unique time series of the radiation balance of the Earth which forces climate change. The first GERB was launched in 2002 so that there already exists a decade of observations of the solar radiation absorbed by the Earth and the cooling thermal radiation emitted by the Earth.
The new satellite will ensure continuity of those observations to close to 20 years, a timeline which will be extended still further when GERB-4 is launched in a few years time. By sitting in geostationary orbit, GERB can detect changes of the radiation balance through each day at 15 minute intervals.
The core of the novel GERB-3 experiment is the focal plane assembly, built and calibrated at the University of Leicester, which provides the detectors giving GERB the “eye on the world”. Each detector element is only 50 microns by 50 microns approximately which is tiny but the specially blackened 256 elements are sufficiently sensitive to detect Earth radiation at 50 km spatial resolution from the incredible distance of 35,600 km.
Professor John Remedios, from the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre, said: “The launch of MSG-3 is a major success for UK science and technology showing the capability of the UK to build world leading experiments to meet the science challenges of monitoring climate change.
“Each launch brings a huge amount of tension but once in space the instrument also gives us the exhilaration of new data sets giving us fresh insights into the Earth. The long-term acquisition of climate data sets is vital for truly testing climate models and for understanding current changes. GERB is set to be another UK success story.”
GERB-2, 3and 4 are funded by EUMETSAT and built by a UK-led consortium. Imperial College London is responsible for the flight operations and on-ground calibration prior to launch. The scientific lead for the GERB instrument is Prof. John Harries from Imperial College. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is responsible for the overall project management, assembly, integration and test of the GERB instrument. AEA Technology at Culham built the onboard black body (a calibration target). The University of Leicester supplied the focal plane assembly (which includes the detectors) and the front end electronics. The National Physical Laboratory supported the GERB-3 calibrations.
Professor John Remedios, Space Research Centre, Dept. Physics & Astronomy University of Leicester University Road Leicester LE1 7RH Tel: 0116 223 1319 Fax: 0116 252 2464 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacqui Russell, GERB Project Scientist, Imperial College London Tel: +44 (0)20 75947896 E-mail: email@example.com
Nigel Morris STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Chilton, Didcot OXON, OX11 0QX Tel: +44 (0)1235-445470 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Imperial College London GERB web site: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/spat/research/missions/atmos_missions/gerb/
ESA web site: http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEMJRG2VW3H_index_0.html
Eumetsat web site: http://www.eumetsat.de/
Arianespace web site: http://www.arianespace.com