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MetOp-A launch postponed

Baikonur, Kazakhstan, 17 July 2006: The launch of MetOp-A, Europe`s first polar-orbiting weather satellite, was postponed on July 17 after a problem triggered a countdown halt. A third European source said that a new launch attempt would take place at the same time on Tuesday: 8:28 pm Moscow time (1628 GMT) from the Baikonur Space Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The launch of a rocket set to carry into space a huge new satellite designed to improve monitoring of weather systems and the climate was postponed on Monday, possibly after problems with the Russian launcher, officials said.

The satellite is to be the first in a series of three being developed as part of a joint undertaking between the European Space Agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. The project is being run in cooperation with the United States, with European and US satellites expected to operate in complementary orbits, organisers say.

The project’s backers, which include the European Space Agency, say that this and two more satellites to be launched in coming years will provide higher quality data that will improve both weather forecasting and climate monitoring. All three MetOp satellites are scheduled to launch 4.4 years apart in the program designed to provide European meteorological data until 2020.