• New range of earth observation satellites to be launched

Air Monitoring

New range of earth observation satellites to be launched

Dec 08 2011

A new earth observation satellite is to be launched, tracing different gases and aerosols in the air.

British industry has been contracted to build the satellite, but confusion over funding sources may delay its implementation.

The compact satellite, known as Sentinel 5 Precursor (S5P), is a next- generation imaging absorption spectrometer that will trace chemical species from protective gases such stratospheric ozone to damaging pollutants like sulphur dioxide. The45.5 million (40m) project is one ofmany satellites commissioned by the EU under the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program. However, the European Commission wants to fund these projects outside of the main EU budget, leaving operational budgets unsecured.

Futureobservation spacecraft will not be ready until 2020, with Esas Envistat and Nasas Aura currently under construction. Sentinel 5 will fill the gap until this time, eventually flying on Europes future polar orbiting weather spacecraft (hence the name precursor).

The ambitious project will help forge and enforce new European laws by collecting key environmental data. However, funding still needs to be assured.

Dr Liebig, director of Earth Observation Programmes at ESA, told the BBC: "We are in very good shape but we need to make a decision next year on the launch of the first Sentinel"

"This is a problem for us if we do not have an operational budget assured. We could find ourselves in a situation where the satellites are ready on the ground but with no operational budget to put them in space."

Posted by Joseph Hutton  

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