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Yesterday, at 18:30 local time EUMETSAT took control of Metop-B operations, following the three-day Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) conducted by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) of the European Space Agency (ESA). The handover follows the launch of Metop-B on 17 September.
Since Monday evening, teams at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, have been busy day and night during the Launch and Early Orbit Phase. As planned, they checked all of Metop-B’s systems and ensured that its solar array was deployed and oriented towards the Sun to provide crucial power to run the satellite and its 11 scientific instruments.
On Day One, the ESA Flight Operations teams checked the power, temperatures, software, telecommunication links and activated a number of systems. On Day Two, they deployed five payload instrument antennas. On Day Three, with Metop-B in a near-circular orbit at around 800 km altitude and 99 degrees inclination, the teams conducted one thruster burn to fine tune the orbit and get into ‘phase’ with the orbit of Metop-A - and to prepare for handover to EUMETSAT on Thursday.
After the handover, work began immediately on the in-orbit verification of Metop-B, for a six-week period, during which all Metop-B’s 11 instruments will be switched on in sequence.
Handover to Eumetsat is set to take place at 18:00 CEST today. At 14:45 today, the extended mission operations 'team of teams' at ESA gathered in the Main Control Room to witness the addition of the successful launch and LEOP for Metop-B to the history board running across the top of the back wall.
Adding Metop-B to the launch wall in ESOC's Main Control Room, 20 September 2012. Credit: ESA
A fabulous new photo was acquired yesterday by Marco Langbroek, an amateur astro-photographer living in Leiden, NL. Marco's done some excellent work in the past couple years, capturing images of ATV, Envisat and Phobos-Grunt. Now? It's Metop-B! Thanks, Marco, for sharing!
(Click on photo for full size)
Metop-B imaged in orbit 19 Sep 2012 Credit/Copyright: M. Langbroek
Attached a picture I took this evening, in a partly cloudy sky, of ESA's new MetOp-B satellite launched on September 17th. In the picture, it is passing through Lyra (brightest star is Vega).
Near the right end of the MetOp-B trail, you can see a very faint second trail going diagonally up (if you look very carefully). That is an old Russian rocket stage from the Kosmos 1410 launch in 1982. The streaks in the upper right corner are clouds.
Photo taken from the centre of Leiden, the Netherlands, on 19 Sep 2012 at 20:44:27 UTC. 10-second exposure with a Canon EOS 60D + EF 2.5/50mm Macro lens, 1000 ISO.
Today around 18:00 CEST, 72 hrs after launch, ESA's Operations teams will hand over a very healthy Metop-B for routine operations to our colleagues at Eumetsat.
ESA's Deputy Flight Director Andreas Rudolph just reported from ESOC's Main Control Room:
All systems are on green. During LEOP, our jobs on the ESA side were: one orbit manoeuvre, routine hand-over activities, preparation of the memory system and uplink routine commands to ensure spacecraft autonomy (as of now). Our colleagues from Eumetsat will be happy to receive a spacecraft in great shape and on a precise orbit.
All goes well with the critical Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) activities at ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt!
Metop-B in orbit Credit: ESA/Eumetsat
Today, the mission operations team are focussed on completing the OCMs – orbit correction manoeuvres – that will gently nudge Metop-B into its final orbital position. There are thruster burn slots available at 20:46 CEST today and early tomorrow morning. In fact, Metop-B was delivered into an almost perfect orbit, so the manoeuvres need only be done within the plane of the orbit.
From this morning's mission operations report (06:28 CEST):
Metop-B has now completed almost 21 orbits and is continuing to perform excellently
Orbit is nearly circular at about 801 km altitude, in a 98.7 degree polar orbit
Payload instrument antennas deployment and Payload Module initialisation complete
Power generation is stable at ca. 4.5 kW in sunlight; the solar array is tracking the Sun as expected
Total fuel at lift off 315.6 kg; consumed so far: 2.286 kg
The latest on Metop-B from the Main Control Room at ESA's Operations Centre in Darmstadt.
ESOC Main Control Room Credit: ESA/J. Mai
We spoke earlier today with Deputy Flight Director Andreas Rudolph:
All our systems are green! The ongoing post-launch tests & check-outs are proceding as planned. The Soyuz-Fregat launcher did a fantastic job, injecting Metop-B into its orbit at a precision of 3km and within 2 millidegrees of planned inclination.
Currently, Metop-B is at around 790 km altitude, moving toward the 817 km routine polar orbit.
As planned, we have been checking spacecraft attitude, data handling, telecom links, software, back-up systems, solar array operation, power and temperatures. All look very well and, thus, 'nominal'. We will do further tests and will soon start switching on the scientific instruments of the weather satellite.
Earlier this evening, after a spectacular night-time launch from Baikonur, Europe's newest operational weather satellite, MetOp-B, successfully entered orbit.
MetOp-B launch (Eumetsat)
The Soyuz launch vehicle lifted off the pad at 18:28 CEST, and continued on to a flawless boost phase and polar orbit injection.
At 20:47 CEST, the solar arrays were confirmed by ESA Mission Director Hervé Côme to be rotating correctly into position, indicating launch success.
Teams at Starsem, the launch authority, the Metop project at ESA, the mission operations, ground stations and flight dynamics teams at ESOC and teams at Eumetsat have done an excellent job!
MetOp-B launch (ESA)
The success marks the start of an intensive Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) running to Thursday, when the satellite will be fully checked out, manoeuvred into its proper orbit and finally handed over to Eumetsat. The ESOC teams in particular will be working intensely, staffing the Main Control Room around the clock to ensure the satellite remains healthy and on course.