Successful launch of MSG-1

August 28th 2002 saw the dawn of a new era in Europe with the successful launch of a new series of all digital Meteosat geostationary satellites, MSG-1 [Meteosat Second Generation].

The launch was planned for August 27th but the countdown was held 7 minutes before launch owing to a computer glitch. The 'launch window' was extended but the problem could not be solved in time and the launch was postponed until the next evening.

The 'launch window' is a specific period of time during which the satellite must be launched taking into account its required final orbit and the extra use of onboard fuel required to make final adjustments if launched outside the optimum 'window.'


( 2002 ESA/CNES - Arianespace/Photo Services Optique CS)

The following evening after a short hold in the countdown, MSG-1 and co-passenger Atlantic Bird-1 roared into the night sky above the European Spaceport in Kourou aboard an Ariane-5 launcher in a spectacular and perfect launch.

MSG-1 was accurately placed into elliptical Geostationary Transfer Orbit - one end of which is close to the Earth and the other out at the geostationary satellite orbit altitude. At this point control of the satellite was handled by ESOC - the European Space Operations Centre of ESA in Darmstadt.
A few days later, thrusters were fired at the far end of the elliptical orbit to steer the satellite into the geostationary plane. MSG-1 was then slowly drifted to 10 deg. W and control was handed over to EUMETSAT on September 25th. The first phase of commissioning began shortly after.

Not only did the satellite have to undergo commissioning but a completely new ground segment system required verifying. Satellite commissioning would last about 10 months before MSG-1 would drifted to 0 deg. to become the operational satellite and then be renamed Meteosat-8.

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