An artist view of the MicroCarb satellite. Credits: CNES/Thales Alenia Space

European MicroCarb CO2 Monitoring Satellite is Ready for Launch

MicroCarb, Europe's pioneering CO2 monitoring satellite, gears up for launch, promising precise data to combat climate change

The MicroCarb satellite, the inaugural European space mission tailored to monitor carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, has successfully completed assembly and qualification in the UK.

An artist view of the MicroCarb satellite. Credits: CNES/Thales Alenia Space
An artist view of the MicroCarb satellite. Credits: CNES/Thales Alenia Space

The spacecraft, a collaborative effort led by Thales Alenia Space UK (TAS UK), is now en route to Toulouse, France, where it will await its scheduled launch onboard the Vega C, which is currently out of service due to its latest launch failure.


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Mission and objectives

The primary objective of the MicroCarb mission is to quantify the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide globally, addressing the challenge of accurately measuring CO2 absorption and release into the atmosphere. The lack of comprehensive data on these critical carbon fluxes has impeded our ability to understand natural carbon processes and effectively model climate change.

Andrew Griffith MP, UK Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, expressed enthusiasm for MicroCarb’s potential impact: “MicroCarb’s advanced technology […] marks the latest exciting innovation by the UK’s ground-breaking space sector in collaboration with our friends in France,” he said in a statement on Friday.

As part of the Paris Agreement and COP21, MicroCarb, a French initiative, becomes the inaugural European project for global CO2 measurement. This mission complements ongoing American and Asian efforts, setting the stage for future Copernicus missions like CO2M.

Additionally, once operational, MicroCarb aims to provide essential information to businesses and decision-makers globally, empowering them to contribute to climate change mitigation. The mission also aims to open new avenues for UK businesses, fostering economic growth.

MicroCarb’s utilizes a passive spectrometer, allowing for precise measurements of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, reaching a level of around one molecule per million molecules of dry air (1 ppm). The pixel size will be 4.5 km x 9 km. This precision is crucial for understanding the exchange mechanisms at play and their response to climate change.

The MicroCarb instrument before its departure from Airbus cleanroom in Toulouse. Credits: Airbus
The MicroCarb instrument before its departure from Airbus cleanroom in Toulouse. Credits: Airbus

The French space agency, CNES, oversees and executes the MicroCarb mission in collaboration with the UK Space Agency and the European Union, which are providing additional funding (£13.9 million). Airbus Defence & Space designed and built the instrument, integrated into the satellite built around CNES’s Myriade microsatellite bus.


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Cooperation is the key

Dr. Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, highlighted the importance of satellites data for the environment: “Over half of the critical measurements on climate change rely on satellite data and it’s a testament to the expertise of UK scientists and engineers,” he said.

“MicroCarb is a shining example of successful international space cooperation,” stated Philippe Baptiste, Chairman and Chief Executive of CNES. In addition, François-Marie Bréon, the instrument’s principal investigator from the Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Sciences in France, also acknowledged the joint efforts of engineering teams in France and the UK.

Post-launch, scheduled for 2025, the UK will continue to play a vital role in the mission: by analyzing the sunlight reflected by Earth, the mission will track the modifications of the solar rays induced by the various molecules met by the photons while passing through the atmosphere.

By focusing on the known and precise wavelengths specific to carbon and methane molecules, it is able to identify their presence and measure their concentrations across the globe.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & Administrator. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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