ESA’s Aeolus Satellite to Calibrate Winds For First Time On a Global Scale

September 10, 2018 by No Comments

Calibrating an instrument involves comparing the measurements of two instruments: one with a known magnitude or correctness (standard device), and one that’s tested against the standard device for precision. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures defined calibration as: “[An] operation that, under specified conditions, in the first step, establishes a relation between the quantity values with measurement uncertainties provided by the measurement standards and corresponding indications with associated measurement uncertainties (of the calibrated instrument or secondary standard) and, in the second step, uses this information to establish a relation for obtaining a measurement result from an indication.”

Instrument calibration is incredibly important. Take your automobile, for instance. Without precise calibration, your speedometer, GPS, fuel tank, and countless other vital components could not function correctly, putting the driver in great danger. While calibration is used in virtually every industry, the science of calibration is now being used in a fascinating global endeavor.

According to Space Flight Now, the European Space Agency has spent 16 years developing the $550 million Aeolus satellite. The developers had to overcome and master innovative technologies, and they will soon be able to measure and monitor wind speeds from space for the first time on a global scale.

Data collected by the Aeolus satellite will be fed into numerical weather prediction models, replacing simulation boundary conditions inside the computer models with near real-time measurements from space.

“We are serving the meteorological community as the primary user, but also the climate research community,” said Anders Elfving, Aeolus project manager at the European Space Agency. “For decades, there has been an outcry from these communities for explicit wind measurements, explicit wind profiles in the whole atmosphere, globally and continuously.”

Aeolus is a figure in Greek mythology who was appointed by the gods as Keeper of the Winds.

Once in orbit, the satellite will automatically extend its power-generating solar panels and will begin its calibration campaign to ensure accurate satellite measurements — the calibration campaign will extend into the second quarter of 2019 and the researchers will gather all the data and then develop next steps.

As soon as the Aeolus is in orbit, after some careful examination and approximately two weeks, the European Space Agency will switch on the instrument and its lasers.

“We don’t want to damage anything if we have any wrong settings,” Elfving added. “In October, we expect to start collecting and calibrating data.”

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