A decision has been made by the EUMETSAT Council to exploit the "getting older" and still healthy Metop-A satellite as the craft continues a "drifting" orbit from June of 2017, onwards, in order to extend the satellite's useful lifetime from 2019 to 2022.
According to EUMETSAT, the nominal ground track will be maintained; however, the local time at ascending node will decrease from the nominal mission value of 21h30 in June 2017 to 19h30 in 2021. This measure will enable two to three years of tri-Metop operations with Metop-B and Metop-C as from 2019, after the end of Metop-C commissioning.
The launch of Metop-C is currently planned for October of 2018. Operating Metop-A in a drifting orbit will maximize the return on investments of EUMETSAT Member States and benefit the worldwide Numerical Weather Prediction user community. Metop-A will then be de-orbited to a lower perigee orbit for re-entry within 25 years, in line with the policy adopted by Council to comply as far as possible with space debris mitigation guidelines, although Metop satellites were designed long before these guidelines were established.
The development of the EUMETSAT Polar System of Second Generation (EPS-SG) system progressed further at this Council session, with the approval of the contract for the Payload Data Acquisition and Processing (PDAP) function of the ground segment. The PDAP includes ground stations to acquire payload data from the Metop-SG satellites and a complex processing system to extract physical and environmental products in real time. With the approval of this contract, all ground segment development contract will be in force by the end of the year.
At the end of the Council session, the Director-General signed cooperation agreements with the Chief Executive Officers of the Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, UK National Meteorological Services each leading one EUMETSAT Satellite Application Facility (SAF), for the Third Continuous Development and Operations Phase (CDOP 3) of the eight SAFs. Each SAF is a consortium developing and providing EUMETSAT operational products and software for use in a specific application area. The CDOP-3 covers the period 2017-2022 and will further extend EUMETSAT’s portfolio of operational products and develop new products extracted from Meteosat Third Generation and EPS-SG observations.