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Aeolus European satellite will track land winds



Equipped with a high precision laser, this high-tech machine must allow a serious leap forward in weather forecasts, but also in climate science. It has been tested at Liège Space Center (CSL).

The small Vega launch is preparing to launch this Tuesday from Kourou, French Guiana, the European satellite Aeolus, a high-tech machine designed to measure wind worldwide as part of the Copernicus Earth Observation Program

to measure winds from space, Aeolus will experiment with a whole new technology based on a high-performance laser (Lidar for Light Detection and Ranging), that will distinguish the lower layers of Earth's atmosphere (up to 30km height) to produce vertical wind profiles and gather information about aerosols and clouds. This revolutionary instrument, called Aladin (Atmospheric LAser Doppler Instrument), demanded more than 1

6 years of development

Today's daily weather forecasts already contain wind information, including probe balloons and field probes. However, the direct measurements are too fragmentary. Scientists and meteorologists need accurate data on the winds periodically to understand the systems that affect weather and climate and improve their forecasts.

Aeolus will be the first satellite to provide them with this information. The prestigious NASA had developed an instrument based on the same technology for its ICEsat satellite.

The information thus collected will make "not only a serious leap forward in the weather forecasts, but also contribute to long-term climate research", Liège Space Center. CSL, a subsidiary of ULg, tested Aeolus and its laser technology last year. Many logistical means have been used to reproduce space conditions. In total, the machine was tested for 50 days in a row, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

Within 50 years of space activities, the second time CSL had received a complete satellite.

A subsidiary of Airbus

The satellite was built by Airbus Defense and Space. A Belgian subsidiary of Airbus, the company EHP, established in Nivelles, was involved in the project. Earlier spin-off of ULB and Sabca, EHP (Euro Heat Pipes) specializes in thermal space control space technology. It provides heat lines, completely hermetic elements that lead heat. For its part, SONACA (Charleroi Gosselies) worked with optical benches.

Aeolus is part of the European Union Copernicus Program. Copernicus's ambition is to create a system for monitoring and understanding the environment similar to those found for meteorology. The program includes 6 satellite families (radar image, optical, altimetry, chemical analysis, etc.) dedicated to observing land and sea, as well as monitoring the composition of the atmosphere.

This European Earth observation program will generate a phenomenal amount of environmental data. Due to its long-term character, Copernicus must allow the development of downstream services, which the current scientific satellites do not allow.


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