Meteosat Third Generation
The MTG programme, springing from a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Eumetsat (Europe's meteorological satellite agency) plans a new generation of geostationary satellites that can considerably improve our ability to observe and predict weather phenomena.

The programme will have an operational life of approximately 20 years and will comprise six satellites: 4 Imaging (MTG-I) and 2 sounding (MTG-S).

The MTG-I satellites will have a Flexible Combined Imager (FCI) on board, but the big news is the Lightning Imager (LI), Leonardo’s “lightning meter” capable of “seeing” rapid flashes of lightning in the atmosphere from a distance of more than 36,000 km. The MTG-S satellites, instead, will host the Infrared Sounder (IRS) and Copernicus Sentinel-4.

The MTG satellites will bring about a significant improvement in the ability to observe meteorological phenomena, ensuring higher-level forecasting capabilities, particularly for the difficult task of “nowcasting”: the very short-term monitoring and forecasting of rapidly evolving and potentially harmful meteorological phenomena. 

The first MTG-I satellite was placed in orbit on 13 December 2022 by an Ariane 5 from Arianespace. The satellite is being developed by Thales Alenia Space, in collaboration with OHB. The launch of the second MTG-I element is scheduled for 2025.

Telespazio's role

Telespazio is one of the main industrial partners in the programme's ground component.

The company been involved in the development of the MTG programme, in particular in the development and management of the ground segment, right from the outset, handling both data acquisition and satellite command and control operations. In particular, Telespazio provides Eumetsat with launch and in-orbit services for two satellites (with an option for a third) of the new MTG constellation.

It has taken 5 years to prepare for the orbit and orbit transfer operations of the first MTG-I, with the involvement of some 40 people from Telespazio in developing the ground segment and in preparing and testing LEOP operations.

Launching the MTG will involve monitoring tens of thousands of telemetry parameters to verify the state of the satellite and send remote commands to configure the on-board equipment and complete the transfer into geostationary orbit. This last operation is also crucial to increase the operational life of the satellite and, consequently, maximise the return of collected data.

Telespazio has also built and made operational the system that will enable the exchange of data between different parts of Europe. This is the Data Acquisition Facility (MDAF), installed at Lario Space Center (Italy), the Swiss Leuk Station (of partner Signalhorn) and at the Eumetsat headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany.

The MTG geostationary satellites will send to Earth data collected from on-board sensors via high-speed Ka-band radio links. The ground infrastructure will acquire data simultaneously from the Lario and Leuk sites and analyse it in real time, eliminating the negative effects of the rain. It will then send the data to Darmstadt, where the final meteorological services to be distributed to users will be produced.

In addition, Telespazio has implemented and operates the telemetry, tracking and command system of the MTG satellites, both at the Fucino Space Centre and at the Cheia station (Romania) of its subsidiary, Rartel.