[Text Source: EUMETSAT, http://www.eumetsat.int/Home/Main/Satellites/index.htm?l=en
Meteosat First Generation refers to a series of geostationary satellites that have provided images of the full ... Earth disc and data for weather forecasts in a continuous and reliable stream for a quarter of a century. The first Meteosat, Meteosat-1, was launched in 1977, and the last of the first generation, Meteosat-7, was launched 20 years later, in 1997.
Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) consists of a series of four geostationary meteorological satellites, along with ground-based infrastructure, that will operate consecutively until 2020. The MSG satellites carry an impressive pair of instruments, the Spinning Enhanced Visible and InfraRed Imager (SEVIRI), which has the capacity to observe the Earth in 12 spectral channels and provide image data which is core to operational forecasting needs, and the Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) instrument supporting climate studies.
The Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) system is being established through cooperation between EUMETSAT and the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA has already contributed to the initial research and development of the new satellites. The first MTG-I and MTG-S prototypes are being developed by ESA as part of its MTG programme. The EUMETSAT MTG programme includes the procurement of the four recurrent satellites - three MTG-Is and one additional MTG-S - as well as six launches, the development of the ground segment and the operations of all satellites.
The Euronews video (right) provides a useful introduction to past and future developments in European satellite meteorology, with particular reference to the MTG programme.
The MTG series will comprise six satellites, with the first spacecraft likely to be ready for launch from 2017. The in orbit configuration will consist of two parallel positioned satellites, the MTG-I (imager) and the MTG-S (sounder) platforms. Unlike the first and second generation Meteosat series, MTG will be based on three axes stabilised platforms having the advantage that the instruments are 100% of their in orbit time pointed to the Earth. Such improvements are necessary to achieve compliance with more demanding user requirements on spatial resolution, repeat cycle and signal to noise ratio, and are a prerequisite to conduct soundings from geostationary orbit.
MTG-I satellites will fly the Flexible Combined Imager (FCI) and an imaging lightning detection instrument the Lightning Imager (LI). The MTG-S will include an interferometer the InfraRed Sounder (IRS) with hyper-spectral resolution in the thermal spectral domain, and the Sentinel-4 instrument, the high resolution Ultraviolet Visible Near-infrared (UVN) spectrometer.
The programme should guarantee access to space-acquired meteorological data until at least the late 2030s.