Aeolus wind satellite positioned for lift off

Aeolus wind satellite positioned for lift off
ESA’s Aeolus wind satellite flies in a polar, Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 320km. © ESA/ATG medialab

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Aeolus wind satellite, the latest Earth explorer satellite, is poised for lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The Aeolus wind satellite has been at the launch site since early July in preparation for its launch on 21 August. The satellite was sealed from view in its Vega rocket fairing last week, after which it was rolled out to the launch pad, hoisted into the launch tower and attached to the rest of the rocket.

The satellite will fill a gap in our knowledge of the planet and how it works and will show how the technology can be used to observe Earth from space.

What is the Aeolus wind satellite?

ESA have reported that the Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be sent into orbit. As it is the first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology that will generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said: “Aeolus has certainly posed some technical challenges, but after all it is completely new – the wind has never been measured from space this way before.

“Aeolus is set to be a game changer for understanding the dynamics of our atmosphere and it will have real-world applications by being used to improve our weather forecasts.”

How can the satellite allow us to better understand the Earth’s winds?

The Aeolus wind satellite will profile the lowermost 30km of the atmosphere, giving scientists global information on the speed of winds in almost real-time, allowing us to improve our understanding of how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked.

The mission will also provide and insight into how the wind influences the exchange and moisture between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface, which is crucial for understanding climate change.

Along with advances in science, the data from the satellite will be used to monitor air-quality and improve forecast of airborne particles that affect the public health.

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