Metop weather satellite launches into orbit
Europe has launched a front-line weather satellite into orbit that has components that are over a decade old.
The Metop-C spacecraft took off from French Guiana late on Tuesday local time, and will circle the globe, gathering data that will feed into daily forecasts.
The satellite was procured at the same time as its two predecessors, but was then stored for later use.
A British instrument onboard was manufactured 17 years ago.
The Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) will detect water in the atmosphere - everything from fog to the heavy rain inside a hurricane.
Europe's meteorological agencies say they have no qualms about Metop-C's capabilities.
The spacecraft was routinely pulled out of hibernation and had its systems checked to see they are still functional.
The polar-orbiting Earth observer is fully expected to carry through its duties until the next-generation of technologies take over early next decade, states Dr Dieter Klaes from Eumetsat, the intergovernmental organisation that operates European weather satellites.
"Metop-C was regularly tested. Whenever these satellites have been in storage, there is a health review," he told BBC News.
"The instruments are switched on and tested and we see whether there has been a degradation. The European Space Agency (Esa) and industry did a tremendous job to put all the spacecraft parts - in terms of payload module, service module and instruments - into a shape where they're ready for launch."
All three platforms in the Metop series were purchased from European industry at the turn of the millennium. It is the most efficient and cheapest way to acquire these multi-billion-euro systems.
Metop-A was the first to launch, in 2006; Metop-B followed in 2012. Both satellites were expected to work for at least five years, and their continued operation today is a boon to weather forecasters. They will now get additional data to ingest in numerical models with the launch of Metop-C.
The satellites are different from their geostationary spacecraft "cousins" which image developing weather activity from a vantage point some 36,000km above the equator.
The polar orbiting satellites fly much lower, only 800km above the ground. Their job is to probe atmospheric conditions, detailing parameters such as humidity and temperature at different heights.
The introduction of the Metops has had an astounding impact on forecast quality. Assessments indicate the data from the first two platforms reduced errors in the 24-hour lookahead by 27%. And there have been big gains also in medium-range forecasts - those that go out to several days hence. -BBC