September 20, 2016

METimage – Next-generation weather forecasts

DLR and Airbus Defence and Space sign contract for design and construction

METimage, a new satellite instrument for weather and climate forecasting, is now entering its final phase. On 20 September 2016, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and Airbus Defence and Space signed an agreement for the design, construction and testing of the radiometer. The signing took place in the presence of Tobias Miethaner, Head of the Department Digital Society at the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) at DLR's offices in Berlin. "METimage will enable climate monitoring and weather forecasting to be done with unprecedented levels of quality," stated Gerd Gruppe, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for the Space Administration. "Both are important pieces of information, not just for citizens, but also for many industrial sectors, such as energy, agriculture and transport. METimage is therefore infrastructure for tomorrow." Furthermore, during the signing ceremony, a Cooperation Agreement between DLR and EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, for the integration of METimage into the European weather satellite system EUMETSAT Polar System - Second Generation (EPS-SG) was confirmed.

"Today's agreements help us to expand our long-standing commitment to satellite-based Earth observation," said Rainer Bomba, State Secretary of the BMVI, on this occasion. "For the first time, Germany is directly developing an instrument for a European weather satellite system. With an investment of 130 million euro, the BMVI is playing a role in the construction of this instrument, which will be essential for weather observation. METimage is an important element of the German Federal Government’s space strategy."

Weather and climate forecasts with unprecedented quality

METimage is a next-generation satellite instrument for meteorological applications. The multi-spectral imaging radiometer will gather important information on cloud cover, sea and land surface temperatures, as well as the distribution of water vapour in the atmosphere at unprecedented levels of accuracy, which will enable significantly more reliable weather and climate forecasts to be produced. The instrument detects sunlight reflected from Earth's surface, atmosphere and clouds in 20 spectral channels – from the visible to the infrared – collects environmental data, and has a resolution of around 500 metres per pixel. The instrument that is currently being used only uses six channels, and has a resolution of more than one kilometre per pixel.

METimage will be operational from 2021, at the same time as the new MetOp weather satellites of EPS-SG. The satellites will be put into a polar orbit, where they will circle Earth approximately 14 times per day at an altitude of approximately 830 kilometres. METimage will continuously scan an approximately 2700-kilometre-wide strip of Earth's surface from orbit. The radiometer should be operational for a minimum of 20 years on board the MetOp satellites, where it will gather reliable data on the weather and climate.

The agreement makes Airbus Defence and Space the main party responsible for the design, construction and testing of METimage, as well as two copies of the instrument. The order amounts to approximately 291 million euro. The operator of the MetOp satellites will be EUMETSAT. These satellites will be procured on their behalf by the European Space Agency (ESA). The cooperation with EUMETSAT establishes that the three METimage instruments will be developed and made available for the EPS-SG programme. Seventy percent of the costs associated with the first model will be financed by DLR with funds from the BMVI, and 30 percent will be financed by EUMETSAT. The total costs for the two additional copies will be borne by EUMETSAT.

DLR and the former German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS), now the BMVI, signed the agreement for the METimage weather observation mission on 16 June 2008. Whereas the concept phase was partially financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the BMVI, the financial responsibility for the project now lies solely with the BMVI. The DLR Space Administration is responsible for coordinating the project, at the request of the BMVI.


Diana Gonzalez Velden

Communications & Media Relations, Web Editor
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
German Space Agency at DLR
Königswinterer Straße 522-524, 53227 Bonn
Tel: +49 228 447-388

Isabel Zerfowski

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Space Administration, Earth Observation
Königswinterer Straße 522-524, 53227 Bonn-Oberkassel