The European Space Agency is preparing to launch the first satellite that will directly measure wind speeds around the world in what scientists hope will improve weather forecasts.
The Aeolus probe, named after the keeper of the winds in Greek mythology, is scheduled to lift off late Wednesday aboard a Vega rocket from a spaceport in French Guiana.
The satellite is equipped with a Doppler lidar — nicknamed Aladin — that uses pulses of light to detect the movement of tiny particles in the air. The data can be used to calculate wind speeds, a process that's currently done from the ground or, indirectly, by observing waves and clouds from planes or space.
The European Space Agency says real-time wind measurements will make weather and climate predictions more accurate.