Stevenage – Aeolus, the European Space Agency’s wind sensing satellite, is leaving Stevenage, UK, in the next few days on the first part of its journey to space. It will be shipped to Toulouse, France, for final testing before it travels to French Guiana towards the end of the year ready for launch on a Vega launcher.
The 1.7-tonne spacecraft, primed by Airbus Defence and Space, features the LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) instrument called Aladin, which uses the Doppler effect to determine the wind speed at varying altitudes.
Aladin fires a powerful ultraviolet laser pulse down through the atmosphere and collects backscattered light, using a large 1.5m diameter telescope, which is then analysed onboard by highly sensitive receivers to determine the Doppler shift of the signal from layers at different heights in the atmosphere. The data from Aeolus will provide reliable wind-profile data on a global scale and is needed by meteorologists to further improve the accuracy of weather forecasts.
The spacecraft is leaving Stevenage on 29th January and will make its way by road to Toulouse (Intespace) in a special convoy. Testing will involve simulation of the Vega launch environment using special vibration and acoustic facilities. Following this the spacecraft will move on to specialist facilities at CSL in Liege, Belgium where it will undergo thermal vacuum tests to simulate the extremes of the space environment together with full performance testing of the instrument system. Aeolus will fly in a 320 km orbit and have a lifetime of three years.