European Space Agency Current Affairs
European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched wind-sensing satellite named Aeolus into orbit on board of Vega rocket from French Guyana. It is world’s first wind-sensing satellite dedicated to map Earth’s wind on global scale in particular tropical winds which are very poorly mapped because of almost complete absence of direct observations.
The satellite is Aeolus named after guardian of wind in Greek mythology. It will be placed at altitude of 320km above the Earth. It is part of the Copernicus project, a joint initiative of European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA) to track environmental damage and aid disaster relief operations.
Aeolus satellite is equipped with single instrument Doppler wind lidar (named Aladin), which is advanced laser system is designed to accurately measure global wind patterns from space. It will probe lower layers of atmosphere, down to altitude of about 30 km to yield vertical profiles of wind and information on aerosols and clouds.
Significance: Aeolus satellite will provide much-needed data to improve quality and accuracy of weather forecasting. It will help to improve understanding of working of atmosphere dynamics and contribute to climate change research.
Working of Doppler lidar
It transmits short, powerful pulses of laser light toward Earth in ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. Particles in air (such as moisture, dust, gases) scatter small fraction of that light energy back to transceiver, where it is collected and recorded. The delay between outgoing pulse and so-called backscattered signal reveals wind’s direction, speed and distance travelled. Data transmitted from Aeolus satellite will be downloaded at ground station in Svalbard, Norway.
Note: Aeolus space mission was fifth of ESA’s planned Earth Explorer missions. Others already have completed or in operation. They have measured Earth’s gravity and geomagnetic fields, soil moisture, ocean salinity and frozen expanses collectively known as cryosphere.
European Space Agency (ESA) successfully launched Sentinel-2B satellite, fifth of its Sentinel Earth observation satellites part of its multi-billion-euro Copernicus observation program.
The optical imaging satellite was launched on board of a Vega rocket from ESA’s spaceport in French Guiana. It marks overall ninth successful launch of the Vega launcher since its debut in 2012.
- The Sentinel-2B satellite is part of satellites system that monitors Earth. It will join its twin Sentinel-2A, which has been in orbit since 2015. The two satellites will orbit 786 km above Earth, on opposite sides of planet.
- They will take high-resolution, colour and infrared images for a wide array of environmental initiatives, including crop forecasting and monitoring natural disasters.
- Together, they will cover all of Earth’s land surfaces, large islands, inland and coastal waterways every five days, providing more up-to-date images and at higher resolution than have been available.
- It will help track pollution of lakes and coastal waters, monitor land changes and produce disaster maps by providing information on floods, landslide and volcanic eruptions.
About Copernicus observation program
- Copernicus observation program is the world’s largest single earth observation programme. It is directed by the European Commission in partnership with ESA.
- It consists of constellation of seven Sentinel Earth observation satellites. The first satellite of the series was launched in April 2014.
- It aims at achieving a global, continuous, autonomous, high quality, wide range Earth observation capacity by providing accurate, timely and easily accessible information.
- It also aims at improving the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure civil security.
- Copernicus observation program is successor of previous European Envisat program which operated from 2002 to 2012.