ESA launches Arctic weather satellites in June | Polarjournal
Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS). If everything goes as expected, ESA will launch a group of six such satellites. (Photo: ESA)

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that it will launch a satellite in June 2024 to provide improved weather data in the Arctic. There is no region more exposed to the effects of global warming than the Arctic. As the name suggests, the new Arctic Weather Satellite mission aims to improve weather projections in the Arctic, a region that currently lacks data for accurate short-term forecasts.

The Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS) was developed by the European aerospace company OHB. It took only 36 months from the contract award by ESA to OHB in Sweden to the completion of the satellite, which emphasizes the importance of the mission.

The satellite, which will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, weighs 120 kilograms (264 pounds) and has a wingspan of 5.3 meters (16 feet) with the solar panels deployed.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Arctic weather satellite is being prepared for launch in the USA. (Photo: ESA)

Mats Persson, the Swedish Minister for Education, said: “The mission is particularly important for research into global warming. Mitigating climate change is a priority and space data is essential for analyzing the changes and identifying effective solutions”. The AWS mission is also proof of European cooperation, Persson added.

ESA stated that the satellite, which has a lifespan of around five years, will support other satellites already in orbit and can therefore provide accurate short-term weather predictions for the Arctic region.

Mats Persson, Swedish Minister of Education: “This is an indispensable contribution of space data to understanding and adapting to climate change”. (Photo: European Union)

Rapid warming of the Arctic

The glaciers, forests and frozen, carbon-rich soils of the Arctic are at risk of irreversible changes that could potentially impact the entire world.

Mats Persson continues: “This is a region that is becoming more difficult geopolitically, especially because of the war in Ukraine. Europe’s independence in terms of space infrastructure must therefore be guaranteed.

ESA’s weather satellite will provide more reliable weather data from the Arctic. (Video: ESA)

Simonetta Cheli, Director of Earth Observation Programs at ESA, explains: “The satellite will enable meteorologists to improve short-term forecasts in the High North.

This tiny piece of space technology has great potential and an important mission: to provide temperature and humidity data that will enable ‘nowcasting’ in the Arctic for the first time”.

If everything goes as expected, ESA will launch a group of six such satellites. According to ESA, once positioned, the satellites will be able to observe 90 percent of the Earth in a maximum of five hours.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in 2022, the lack of cooperation between Moscow and Western countries has led to researchers losing considerable amounts of data.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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