The European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the Aeolus satellite on Tuesday, which will study the Earth’s winds with Portuguese technology.
The launch of the ‘wind guardian’ will be made from the space base of Kourou, French Guiana, aboard a Vega rocket and scheduled for 21:20 GMT (22:20 in Lisbon).
The satellite, which carries equipment manufactured by Portuguese aerospace companies LusoSpace and Omnidea, will allow scientists to obtain information on near-real-time wind speeds as they descend to the lower 30 kilometers of the Earth’s atmosphere.
LusoSpace was the origin of two magnetometers (instruments with which it is possible to map the Earth’s magnetic field), while Omnidea produced and tested the valves that ensure the cleaning of the optical component of Aladin, the main Aeolian instrument, which has a telescope and a ‘laser doppler’.
According to ESA, the satellite, which is named after the windsurfer in Greek mythology, has state-of-the-art laser technology that will enable the measurement of ground winds and obtain information about the clouds.
The device will trigger pulses of ultraviolet (invisible) light into Earth’s atmosphere, a method considered innovative to establish the wind profile from space.
The data collected will, according to ESA, improve understanding of how the atmosphere works, contribute to climate change research and assist in weather forecasting extreme events such as hurricanes or El Niño.
The recorded information may still be used in air quality models to improve predictions of dust and other airborne particles affecting public health.
Currently, information on the winds is obtained from weather balloons, ground instruments, aircraft, tracking of the movement of clouds and satellite instruments that measure the wind near the surface of the oceans.