Major satellite program launches to hunt for methane, carbon “super-emitters”

Axios Media
April 16, 2021

A new era in mon­i­tor­ing com­pli­ance of envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions is quick­ly approach­ing, sig­naled in part by plans announced Thurs­day to deploy a net­work of satel­lites that can pin­point sources of of methane and car­bon diox­ide emissions.

Why it mat­ters: The new non­prof­it, known as Car­bon Map­per, aims to launch its first satel­lite in 2023 that can detect methane super-emit­ters and track car­bon emis­sions. If suc­cess­ful, it could trans­form the way pol­i­cy­mak­ers reg­u­late green­house gas emis­sions and also gen­er­ate a wealth of data for pub­lic use.

Between the lines: Car­bon Map­per — which com­bines the skills of NASA’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­to­ry and satel­lite firm Plan­et with the state of Cal­i­for­nia, two uni­ver­si­ties in Ari­zona, a foun­da­tion and an envi­ron­men­tal think tank — has raised $100 mil­lion for its first two satel­lites, planned for launch in 2023.

  • A sec­ond phase, con­sist­ing of a con­stel­la­tion of satel­lites, is in the design stages for launch in 2025.
  • When com­bined with efforts by the envi­ron­men­tal group EDF to launch its own methane-track­ing satel­lite, the devel­op­ment sig­nals the move toward real-time emis­sions monitoring.
  • The new con­sor­tium rep­re­sents a poten­tial leap for­ward in the long-run­ning effort to hold pol­luters accountable.

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