Antonov An-124 picks up climate monitoring satellite at Munich Airport

Munich Airport welcomed a giant Antonov An-124 last week to pick up a 2.3 ton climate-monitoring satellite on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer) satellite, constructed by Airbus, is a joint project between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and will investigate the role played by clouds and aerosols in reflecting solar radiation into space and in capturing infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface.

Marc Steckling, head of earth observation, science and exploration at Airbus said: “As the world’s climate continues to change at a faster and faster rate, scientists need ever more sophisticated space assets to enable better analysis.

“EarthCARE will help fill in the gaps by providing unprecedented measurements so that meteorologists and climatologists can better understand how energy is transmitted within the atmosphere.”

The project is supported by more than 200 research institutes around the world.

After taking off from Munich Airport on Friday evening, the Antonov aircraft transported the satellite to the SpaceX launch site in Vandenberg, California. The launch is scheduled for May with a Falcon 9 rocket.

With a wingspan in excess of 74 metre and an empty weight of 173 tons, the Antonov An-124 is one of the largest transport aircraft in the world.

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