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The Meteor spacecraft are weather observation satellites launched by the USSR. The Meteor satellite series was developed during the 1960s. The Meteor satellites were designed to monitor atmospheric and sea-surface temperatures, humidity, radiation, sea ice conditions, snow-cover, and clouds.
Meteor 1-1 was the Soviet Union's first fully operational weather satellite, and was launched 26 March 1969 on a Vostok rocket. It weighed between 1,200 and 1,400 kilograms, and was originally placed in orbit at an altitude of 650 km. Two solar panels were automatically oriented toward the sun. It ceased operations in July 1970. Meteor 1-1 was the first of a series of 25 launches of similar spacecraft (model designation Meteor M 11F614) from 1969 to 1977.
Meteor 1-1 deorbited and fell in Antarctica on 26 March 2012, on the anniversary of its launch 43 years earlier, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. "According to data provided by the Main Center for Space Reconnaissance, which is part of Russia's Space Forces, fragments of the Meteor 1-1 satellite entered the Earth's atmosphere at 02:17 a.m. Moscow time on Tuesday (22:17 GMT Monday 26 March 2012)," according to Space Forces spokesman Col. Alexey Zolotukhin. He also said that the defunct satellite fell in the Queen Maud Land region of Antarctica, about 690 kilometres (430 miles) from Argentinean research station of Belgrano II.
The satellite provided near-global observations of the earth's weather systems, cloud cover, ice and snow fields, and reflected and emitted radiation from the dayside and nightside of the earth-atmosphere system for operational use by the Soviet meteorological service. Some of the processed data and TV pictures from the satellite were distributed to meteorological centers around the world.
ILRS Mission Support Status: Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) tracking support of this satellite was discontinued in October 1998. What makes Meteor 2-21 distinctive from the other meteorological satellites is its unique retroreflector array. Fizeau is named after a French physicist, Armand Fizeau, who in 1851 conducted an experiment which tested for the aether convection coefficient. SLR tracking of this satellite was used for precise orbit determination and the Fizeau experiment. The Fizeau experiment tests the theory of special relativity – that distance events that are simultaneous for one observer will not be simultaneous for an observer in motion relative to the first.
RetroReflector Array (RRA) Characteristics: The retro-reflector array consists of three corner cubes in a linear array with the two outer corner cubes pointing at 45 degree angles relative to the central cube. The central cube is made of fused silica and has a two-lobe Far Field Diffraction Pattern (FFDP) providing nearly equal intensities for compensated and uncompensated velocity aberration. Both outer reflectors have aluminum coating on the reflecting surfaces and near-diffraction-limited FFDPs. One of the end reflectors is made of fused silica with an index of refraction of 1.46 and should provide partial compensation of the velocity aberration. The other end reflector is made of fused glass with an index of refraction of 1.62 and should provide a perfect compensation of the velocity aberration.
SLR full-rate data from MOBLAS 4, MOBLAS 7, and Maidanak seem to confirm the presence of the compensating influence of the Fizeau effect. Resur-1, another Russian satellite launched in 1994, has 2 corner cubes reflectors with near diffraction-limited FFDPs, which were specifically designed for the continuation of this experiment. WESTPAC, a future SLR satellite, will verify indisputably the existence or otherwise of the Fizeau effect.
Instrumentation: Meteor-2-21/Fizeau had the following instrumentation on board:
- Scanning telephotometer
- Scanning infrared radiometers
- Radiation measurement complex
- Retroreflector array
The Meteor 3 series was launched 7 times between 1984 and 1994 after a difficult and protracted development program that began in 1972. In the last days of the Cold War, a Meteor-3 satellite carried the second Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) aloft as the first and the last American-built instrument to fly on a Soviet spacecraft. Launched from the Plesetsk, Russia, facility near the White Sea, on 15 August 1991, Meteor-3 TOMS had a unique orbit that presents special problems for processing data. Meteor-3 TOMS began returning data in August 1991 and stopped in December 1994.
Meteor 3-5, launched in 1991, is in a slightly higher orbit than Meteor 2-21, and operated until 1994. It transmitted on 137.300 MHz. Mechanically, it is similar to Meteor 2-21. Which satellite was in operation depended on the sun angles and consequently the seasons. Meteor 3-5 was usually the (Northern Hemisphere) "summer" satellite while 2-21 was in operation for approximately the half-year centered on winter.
The METEOR 3-6/PRARE satellite is the sixth in the Russian METEOR-3 series of meteorological satellites launched in 1994. These satellites provide weather information including data on clouds, ice and snow cover, atmospheric radiation and humidity. The Meteor-3 class of satellites orbit in a higher altitude than the Meteor-2 class of satellites thus providing more complete coverage of the Earth's surface. The Meteor-3 has the same payload as the Meteor-2 but also includes an advanced scanning radiometer with better spectral and spatial resolution and a spectrometer for determining total ozone content. Meteorological data is transmitted to four primary sites in the former Soviet Union in conjunction with about 80 other smaller sites.
ILRS Mission Support Status: Satellite laser ranging and PRARE data was used for precision orbit determination and intercomparison of the two techniques. ILRS tracking support of this satellite was discontinued on 11 November 1995.
Instrumentation: METEOR-3-6 has the following instrumentation on board:
- Scanning TV-sensor
- Visible light and infrared radiometers
- Scanning infrared radiometer
- Ozone Mapper
- Precise Range and Range-Rate Equipment (PRARE)
- Retroreflector array
RetroReflector Array (RRA) Characteristics: The retro-reflector array is a box wing annulus with a diameter of 28 cm and has 24 corner cube reflectors.
The Meteor-3M series of satellites is to be an advanced series of polar orbiters with one 1.4 km resolution visible channel and a ten-channel radiometer with 3 km resolution.
The first of these, Meteor 3M-N1, was launched on 10 December 2001 at 17:18:57 UTC from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The satellite is in a sun-synchronous orbit with an ascending node time of about 9 AM. An APT transmission was planned to only have a reduced resolution (2 km) visible channel data. The status of any APT capability on this satellite is unclear, but it is thought not to have an APT transmitter. No APT transmissions have been received from this satellite. SLR mission support began on 1 May 2002.
METEOR-3M includes the SAGE III (Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment) payload and other instruments designed to measure temperature and humidity profiles, clouds, surface properties, and high energy particles in the upper atmosphere. SAGE III is a gyrating spectrometer that measures ultraviolet/visible energy that will be used to enhance our understanding of natural and human-derived atmospheric processes by providing accurate long-term measurements of the vertical structure of aerosols, ozone, water vapor, and other important trace gases in the upper troposphere and stratosphere.
Secondary mission objective is the flight testing of the novel-type spherical retroreflector for precise laser ranging.
ILRS Mission Support Status: SLR will be used for precise orbit determination and retroreflector research.
- SAGE III
- Spherical retroreflector
- Other weather monitoring instruments
RetroReflector Array (RRA) Characteristics: The retroreflector is a glass ball 60 mm in diameter, fastened in a holder providing observation from Earth at elevations more than 30° (the retroreflector field of view is centered in the Nadir direction). The spherical retroreflector with it holder is fixed to the METEOR-3M spacecraft. The expected return signal strength level is between LAGEOS and ETALON.
- Soviet Weather Satellite Falls in Antarctica, RIA Novosti, 27 March 2012, accessed 28 March 2012
- Soviet Weather Satellite Falls in Antarctica, RIA Novosti on SpaceDaily.com, 28 March 2012
- Meteor M 11F614, Encyclopedia Astronautica, accessed 17 September 2013
- Meteor-2, Encyclopedia Astronautica, accessed 17 September 2013
- Meteor-3, Encyclopedia Astronautica, accessed 17 September 2013