The European Space Agency Advisory Committee on Earth Observation (Professor Jacquie McGlade Director of Sekenani Space and Resilience Research Centre on far right in first image) in Mission Control at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana ready for the launch. Aeolus in the Launch Tower with the VEGA rocket system. A successful launch at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST, 18:20 local time) on 22 August. 55 minutes after launch, Vega’s upper stage delivered Aeolus into orbit and contact was established through the Troll ground station in Antarctica at 00:30 CEST on 23 August. September 12th first wind data is released, showing large-scale easterly and westerly winds between Earth’s surface and the lower stratosphere, including jet streams.
Named after Aeolus, the ‘keeper of the winds’ in Greek mythology, this novel mission ADM-AEOLUS (Atmospheric Dynamics Mission) carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.
Aeolus will measure winds around the globe and play a key role in better understanding the atmosphere and how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked. It will also improve weather forecasting and climate change modelling. In addition, the data from Aeolus will be used in air-quality models to improve forecasts of dust and other airborne particles that affect public health, something of huge benefit for Africa and Kenya.
The satellite is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Controllers will spend the next few months carefully checking and calibrating the mission as part of its commissioning phase.
The first wind data from ESA’s Aeolus satellite is now coming in. The image shows large-scale easterly and westerly winds between Earth’s surface and the lower stratosphere, including jet streams. As the satellite orbits from the Arctic towards the Antarctic, it senses, strong westerly winds called subtropical jets (shown in blue) each side of the equator. Orbiting further towards the Antarctic, Aeolus senses the strong westerly winds (shown in blue left of Antarctica and in red right of Antarctica) circling the Antarctic continent in the troposphere and stratosphere (stratospheric polar vortex). The overall direction of the wind is the same along the polar vortex, but because the Aeolus wind product is related to the viewing direction of the satellite, the colour changes from blue to red as the satellite passes the Antarctic continent.
This is just the first step. The Sekenani Space and Resilience Research Centre at the Maasai Mara University will be using these data and many others from a wide array of platforms to tell us what is happening in our environment.