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article imageMeet Aeolus, the European Space Agency’s wind-sensing satellite

By Karen Graham     Jun 5, 2018 in Technology
Before ESA’s Aeolus satellite is packed up and shipped to French Guiana for liftoff in August, media representatives had the chance to see this wind measuring Earth Explorer satellite standing proudly in the cleanroom.
The central aim of the Aeolus mission is to further our knowledge of the Earth's atmosphere and weather systems. Not only will data from Aeolus allow scientists to build complex models of our environment for predicting future environmental events, but in the short-term, the data can also be applied to Numerical Weather Prediction in order to make forecasts more accurate.
The ESA's wind-sensing satellite is so sensitive, that it could be damaged by a sudden loss of pressure if air transportation is used. And so, for the first time, Airbus will transport one of its satellites onboard its own ship, rather than have it flown to Kourou, French Guiana, where a Vega launcher will send it to orbit on August 21, 2018.
ESA/ M. Pedoussaut
The Aeolus weighs in at 1.33 tons (1,450 kilograms) and has a 1.4 kW deployable solar array (2×3 panels) with GaAs cells and an 84 Ah Li-ion battery. Aeolus will be launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit with a 97-degree inclination. The spacecraft will fly in a 320 kilometres (199 miles) high orbit for three years.
All about Aladin
The Aeolus wind-sensing satellite will be carrying the first ever space-borne LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) instrument - called Aladin. Aladin will use the Doppler effect to determine the wind speed at varying altitudes.
Lidar works by emitting a short, but powerful, light pulse from a laser through the atmosphere and then collects light that is backscattered from particles of gas and dust and droplets of water in the atmosphere, using a large 1.5m diameter telescope.
The state-of-the-art Aladin instrument incorporates two powerful lasers  a large telescope and very ...
The state-of-the-art Aladin instrument incorporates two powerful lasers, a large telescope and very sensitive receivers. The laser generates ultraviolet light that is beamed towards Earth. This light bounces off air molecules and small particles such as dust, ice and droplets of water in the atmosphere. The fraction of light that is scattered back towards the satellite is collected by Aladin’s telescope and measured.
As the scattering particles are moving in the wind, the wavelength of the scattered light is shifted about a small amount, as a function of speed. Onboard highly sensitive receivers are then able to determine the Doppler shift of the signal from layers at different heights in the atmosphere.
“Aeolus is a world first with break-through technology that will make a huge contribution to weather forecasting on a global scale. Pioneering a LIDAR instrument in Space is quite a challenge – but a great example of what Europeans can achieve when we work together!”, said Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Space Systems at Airbus.
Aeolus Giving the Winds to Odysseus
Aeolus Giving the Winds to Odysseus
Isaac Moillon (1614 - 1673)
Aeolus - The Keeper of the Winds
In Greek mythology, Aeolus was a son of Hippotes who is mentioned in both the Odyssey and the Aeneid as the "Keeper of the Winds," and king of the island of Aeolia, one of the abrupt rocky Lipari islands close to Sicily.
Aeolus lived on the floating island of Aeolia and was visited by Odysseus and his crew in the Odyssey. Aeolus gave them hospitality for a month and provided them with a west wind to carry them home to Ithaca. He also provided a gift of an ox-hide bag containing all winds but the west.
But with Ithica in sight, Odysseus fell asleep, and his crew, thinking the ox-hide bag contained costly presents, hurried to open it up, releasing the imprisoned winds with such a roar that the force drove the ship back to Aeolus' island. Aeolus refused to provide any further help, believing the short and unsuccessful voyage meant that the gods did not favour them.
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