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Copernicus CO2M will measure anthropogenic emissions from space

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European Space Agency ESA It is developing a space monitoring system to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human origin. As part of the program, the CO2M (Man-Made Copernican Carbon Dioxide Monitor) mission will consist of two constellation-qualified satellites for 7.5 years in orbit, to detect carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. It is expected to be launched sequentially in 2026.

Copernicus goal CO2M

For the first time ever, CO2M is a satellite mission specifically aimed at measuring the amount of climate-damaging carbon dioxide that is actually being released into the atmosphere by human activities. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions are very severe in a very small portion of the land, particularly in cities and at the sites of power plants and large factories. Their signal in the atmosphere generates a local excess in the form of columns on the surrounding environment. By sampling the atmosphere using satellite images, the likelihood of more plumes will be identified. A set of satellite images will then allow for a repeated coverage of the entire Earth’s surface.

Copernicus CO2M: At the end of 2025

The CO2M project is being implemented by an industry consortium led by OHB. As the main contractor, OHB System AG is responsible for overall systems and development of satellite platforms. The total order value is 445 million euros. The main subcontractor is Thales Alenia Space as a payload provider. The CO2M satellites will be launched at an altitude of 735 km by the end of 2025, and then ready for use in 2026.

But how do they differ from Earth measurements?

Although ground-based assessments have allowed us to track general changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide content, emissions of individual countries or even individual regions cannot be relied upon. The CO2M mission will fill this gap in the available data materials and allow for better tracking and implementation of the objectives set forth inParis Agreement on the climate (Fig. 1). Copernicus CO2M will estimate the global climate for the next 10 years, and be able to get a more accurate proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Copernicus CO2M 2026, CO2 Task Force Output and Planning for Various Interleaving Activities, Appropriations Document for Copernicus CO2 Monitoring Mission Requirements Document, European Space Agency

Carbon dioxide: what will it be made of?

Thales Alenia Space will deliver the CO2M payload to OHB based on a modular architecture and design that is built around:

Credits: Thales Alenia Space
Credits: Thales Alenia Space

Copernicus and the amendment of the last days

Thales Alenia Space has signed a €169 million CO2M contract modification with OHB System, the project’s first contractor. Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for developing and qualifying payloads for the two satellites of the CO2M mission, part of the European Copernicus programme. The signature of this modification represents the most important milestone in the CO2M mission. In fact, it opens the way for the qualification and development of two important CO2M payloads: Prototype Flight Model (PFM – Prototype Flight) and Flight Model 2 (FM2 – Flight Model 2). The two payloads will be delivered in mid-2024 to the OHB system for integration on the two satellites with a subsequent final overhaul in October 2025.

What carbon dioxide can do

The CO2M payload will simultaneously provide highly accurate quantitative measurements of CO2 and NO2 concentrations (using a CO2/NO2 instrument). Furthermore, it will be able to provide aerosol density measurements, using the MAP tool, and cloud mapping detection using the CLIM tool. This will ensure that errors in the CO2 concentration measurements are corrected.

New Copernicus measurements

Fossil carbon dioxide emissions, or carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, lead to an increase in exogenous carbon in the climate system. With the new data from the Copernicus mission, current uncertainties regarding estimates of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels at the national and regional levels will be reduced. This will serve as a single source of information for the EU to assess the effectiveness of policy measures and monitor their impact on Carbon removal Europe and achieve national emissions reduction targets.

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Satellite data recording of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Credits: C3S / CCI / CAMS / Univ.Bremen / SRON

Copernicus, Expansion of Ranger Missions

CO2M is actually part of a series of missions that belong to guardsDeveloped by the European Space Agency. In addition to monitoring carbon dioxide, other missions will help address challenges such as sea level rise and declining polar ice. Currently six Sentinel Expansion missions, to address EU policy, gaps in the needs of Copernicus users and to expand the existing capabilities of the Space Component.

Copernicus CO2M, Ranger Copernicus Expansion Mission, ESA credits
Copernicus CO2M, Ranger Copernicus Expansion Mission, ESA credits

The great revolution that Copernicus will bring to CO2M will be the application of monitoring the entire planet in a few days. The new target, in the not-too-distant future, will bring back the basic data needed to map greenhouse gas emissions from space.

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