Huge US satellite launches aboard European rocket
A European Ariane 5 rocket blasted off from French Guiana with both one of the largest American communication satellites ever built. The rocket is also carrying a European weather-tracking satellite.
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"Tonight's launch allows EUMETSAT and ESA to continue providing Europeans with high quality observations of weather from space, with MSG-3 being especially valuable in rapid detection and warning of extreme weather situations," ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.Skip to next paragraph
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ESA has been working together with EUMETSAT to develop the Meteosat weather-monitoring satellites, as well as another Earth-observing system known as polar-orbiting MetOp. The two agencies are also working on a more advanced Meteosat system, the Meteosat Third Generation, to advance weather forecasting efforts even more, ESA officials said.
"Once operational at the end of this decade, this next generation will provide a quantum leap in terms of technology and performance, providing among others faster imaging, more spectral channels and an atmospheric sounding capability allowing for the measurements of trace gas profiles," said Volker Leibig, director of ESA's Earth observation program.
ESA and Eumetsat are also planning a new generation of polar-orbiting MetOp satellites (the MetOp Second Generation), which is due to be presented for review to ESA's governing council in November. Meanwhile, the next of the first-generation MetOp satellites to fly will launch on Sept. 19, ESA officials said.
Thursday's liftoff marked the third Ariane 5 rocket launch of the year. Arianespace plans to launch its next mission on Aug. 2 to send the Intelsat 20 communications satellite into orbit.
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