Funding boost for new carbon monitor space mission

Date posted: November 8, 2021
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The front sign of the space park leicester

Leicester researchers will contribute to a new joint British and French space mission dedicated to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

The UK Space Agency has announced a further £3.9 million in funding for the MicroCarb mission dedicated to due to launch in early 2023, which will be the first European satellite dedicated to measuring atmospheric CO2 from all around the world.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, and Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, Director of Sustainable Development of the French space agency, CNES, signed an implementation arrangement for the MicroCarb mission at COP26 – the United Nations climate change conference being hosted by the UK in Glasgow.

Scientists from the UKRI-NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), hosted at Space Park Leicester, will contribute to mission design and use MicroCarb’s data in contribution to global efforts to measure how much carbon is being emitted by natural processes and how much by human activities.

This information will help inform decisions on tackling climate change.

UK Science Minister George Freeman said:

The UK is leading the way in using satellites in space to monitor, understand and tackle climate change.

Our National Space Strategy sets out our ambition to tackle global challenges through international collaboration, consolidating our status as a science and technology superpower.

MicroCarb puts our space sector at the heart of a major European space mission which will benefit global efforts to achieve Net Zero and build a more sustainable future.

The new funding is to complete the build and testing of the satellite and for NCEO experts at the universities of Leicester and Edinburgh to translate atmospheric CO2 observation into maps that show carbon sources.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, added:

Over half of the critical measurements on climate change rely on satellite data. Having more accurate knowledge of how much carbon the world’s forests and oceans absorb will give policymakers the reliable information they need to take decisions on tackling climate change.

This exciting partnership with CNES showcases the skills of the UK space sector in designing and building complex space instruments and cutting-edge satellites.

MicroCarb, which will become operational in 2023, will monitor Earth’s atmospheric CO2 from space with extreme precision and detect the changes associated with surface emissions and uptake across the world from our cities, forests and oceans.

An important feature of the satellite is its special city-scanning observing mode that will allow us to map the CO2 distribution across cities to constrain emissions from cities that are responsible for the majority of global emissions.

Data from MicroCarb will help monitor international progress in meeting the Paris Agreement climate target of limiting global surface warming to well below 2°C of pre-industrial temperatures.

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