Aeolus, keeper of the winds, goes into orbit


The smallest Arianespace rocket, Vega, has finally been launched into orbit. On 22 August, the wind satellite of the European Space Agency - Aeolus - was launched at the scheduled time from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Named after Aeolus, who was keeper of the winds in Greek mythology, the Aeolus satellite was developed following 15 years of research and study by the French company Airbus. It was launched on 22 August after tests in Belgium and will measure the speed and direction of winds up to an altitude of 30,000 metres all around the globe. This technological masterpiece spent three weeks last year undergoing tests at the Space Centre in Liège. It is hoped that its data will help to solve several wind-related mysteries, which will fill one of the large gaps in meteorological knowledge, namely the limited measurement of winds which sometimes makes weather forecasts inaccurate.

The satellite will also provide a greater understanding of how the atmosphere works and will orbit Earth 15 times a day, delivering reliable data from the entire globe. It will also make it possible to measure air quality so as to refine forecasts relating to dust and other particles considered harmful to health.

According to the European Space Agency, Aeolus "will use revolutionary laser technology to measure winds around the globe. It will provide information that will play a key role in our quest to better understand the workings of our atmosphere." The launch of the Aeolus satellite is a world first in more than one respect, as the Americans failed in their development of a similar project.