In geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the equator, the Meteosat satellites — Meteosat-7, -8, -9 and -10 — operate over Europe and Africa. Meteosat-10 (launched from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou in 2012) is the prime operational geostationary satellite, positioned at 0 degrees and providing full disc imagery every 15 minutes. Meteosat-9 (launched on 2005) provides the Rapid Scanning Service, delivering more frequent images every five minutes over parts of Europe, Africa and adjacent seas.
Meteosat-8 (launched in 2002) serves as a back up to both spacecraft. Meteosat-7 (launched in 1997) is the last of the first generation of Meteosat satellites and operates over the Indian Ocean, filling a data gap over the region until it is de-orbited in 2017.
These services are vital to ensure the safety of lives, property and infrastructure, particularly in situations of severe weather.
Each Meteosat satellite is expected to remain in orbit, in an operable condition for at least seven years. The current policy is to keep two operable satellites in orbit and to launch a new satellite close to the date when the fuel in the elder of the two starts to run out. After the end of the MSG lifetime there will be a follow-on series — Meteosat Third Generation.
The MSG satellites carry a pair of instruments — the Spinning Enhanced Visible and InfraRed Imager (SEVIRI), which observes the Earth in 12 spectral channels and the Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) instrument, a visible-infrared radiometer for Earth radiation budget studies. The satellites continually return detailed imagery of Europe, the North Atlantic and Africa every 15 minutes, for operational use by meteorologists.