Keeping up with the weather

Keeping up with the weather

Understanding and predicting the weather is a key factor in understanding our environment. Delivering long term accurate weather forecasting takes a unique satellite programme. Identical datasets must be available over long timescales which leads to mission requirements of identical satellites launched in sequence.

Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for the Metop (Meteorological Operational Polar) series of metrological satellites and also built the SEVIRI instrument flying on the spacecraft. 

Accurate numerical weather models are needed to help predict the changing climate, and the Metop programme – a collaboration between the European-based EUMETSAT satellite agency, the European Space Agency (ESA), France’s CNES space agency, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – has improved the accuracy of weather forecasting, including extending short-term forecasts by one day. 

While the original plan was for each satellite to replace its predecessor, the excellent performance of the first two Metop satellites allows them to operate simultaneously, increasing the amount of meteorological data collected. The launch of Metop-C (and subsequently, the new-generation Metop-SG spacecraft), will further improve the quality of observations and weather forecast data.

Metop - The Meteorological Satellites

A representation of the Airbus-produced Metop-A meteorological satellite, which was launched in 2006.


The first low-earth orbiting meteorology satellite for EUMETSAT, Metop-A carries 12 scientific instruments; two of them, the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) and the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT), were built by Airbus. Launched in 2006 as Europe’s first polar orbiting weather satellite, Metop-A provides high precision weather data that helps businesses, farmers and security organisations. As its orbit is significantly closer to Earth than those of the geostationary satellites, the observation data provided by Metop-A and its successors is much more detailed in comparison. Having exceeded its original five-year design lifespan, Metop-A continues to collect data and will remain in orbit until 2022.

The Airbus-produced Metop-B meteorological satellite is transferred within a clean room facility.


Replacing Metop-A as the prime operational weather satellite in April 2013, the identical Metop-B ensures continuous service for a further five years. In September 2012, Metop-B, the second spacecraft in the series, was launched and operates in tandem with Metop-A. The two satellites fly the same orbit, half an orbit apart, to better observe rapid atmosphere evolutions. The duo has increased the wealth of data even further, collecting data from low Earth orbit essential for accurate forecasts up to 12 days ahead. Metop-A and Metop-B both feature a receiver to relay signals sent by persons in distress.

The Metop-C meteorological satellite, produced by Airbus, is positioned for integration in a clean room setting.


The third satellite, Metop-C, was orbited in November 2018 aboard a Soyuz launch vehicle – continuing the time series of data initiated by Metop-A, and allowing a long-term outlook that is critically important for climate monitoring. Unlike the earlier versions, Metop-C carries 10 scientific instruments, including the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) and the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT), which were built by Airbus.



Airbus has been selected to design and build the second generation of Meteorological Operational (Metop-SG) satellites. Metop-SG comprises two series of satellites, with three units in each series. The Satellite A series focuses on optical instruments and atmospheric sounders, while the Satellite B series will carry microwave instruments. Metop-SG will further improve weather forecasting and climate research, using 10 different instruments, covering ultraviolet, visible, infrared and microwave spectral bands.

The MetOp-C weather satellite


The MetOp-C weather satellite Read less Read more

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