ESA Begins Design of Benchmark Climate Monitoring Satellite

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At this year’s COP26 summit, a UN conference on climate change, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the UK-led TRUTHS mission is moving from its feasibility phase into its preliminary design phase.

The news is important because TRUTHS, a satellite mission meant to measure solar radiation, is expected to be the gold standard for climate monitoring.

By measuring both the solar radiation hitting Earth and the radiation reflected back into space, TRUTHS will be able to detect changes in Earth’s climate faster than existing technologies.

ESA Begins Design of Benchmark Climate Monitoring Satellite
Beth Greenaway

“The UK-led TRUTHS mission is making significant progress,” said Beth Greenaway, from the UK Space Agency. “As it moves into the detailed design phase, we can now see what it will actually look like. The mission will play a vital role in improving how we monitor climate change using satellite data and support the decisive climate action that global nations are negotiating at COP26.”

Now that TRUTHS has graduated into the design phase, the major steps left before liftoff are the official “adoption” of the mission and the selection of an industrial contractor. It was first proposed in May 2019 and is scheduled to launch in 2029.

With a novel onboard calibration system developed by the National Physical Laboratory of the UK, TRUTHS will also be used to calibrate data from other satellites. In effect, it will be a “standards laboratory in space.”

As the Earth’s nations scramble to tackle the climate crisis, access to timely and accurate data is valuable.

The amount of incoming solar energy compared to the amount that bounces back to space essentially controls our climate. Getting a precise measurement of both numbers on a global scale is key to understanding the scale of climate change and monitoring the effectiveness of policy interventions.

Airbus will build TRUTHS in the UK with an international industrial consortium and support from European researchers.

ESA Begins Design of Benchmark Climate Monitoring Satellite
Dominique Gillieron

“Building on our experience of multiple Earth observation missions, ESA leads the preparation phase of TRUTHS mission “towards its final endorsement by the end of 2022 at the ESA ministerial conference,” said Dominique Gillieron, Head of ESA’s Earth Observation Research Missions.

In addition to its calibration system, the satellite will carry two main instruments: the Cryogenic Solar Absolute Radiometer and the Hyperspectral Imaging Spectrometer. They will measure radiation in tandem, providing an energy-in to energy-out ratio.

ESA Begins Design of Benchmark Climate Monitoring Satellite
TRUTHS/ESA

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