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Fri Nov 29, 2019, 04:45 AM

Europe's new space budget to enable CO2 mapping


Europe's new space budget to enable CO2 mapping

By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent, Seville

28 November 2019

Europe will press ahead with a network of satellites to track carbon dioxide emissions across the globe.

They will be developed out of a new European Space Agency (Esa) budget agreed in Seville, Spain.

Research ministers on Thursday approved a package of proposals worth some 14.4bn (12.3bn/$15.9bn) over the next five years.

As well as the new CO2 monitoring system, the funds will also pave the way for missions to the Moon and Mars.

While there were multiple projects being considered here, it is the support given to Earth observation (EO) that catches the eye.

Delegates from 22 nations had been asked to pledge 1.4bn (1.2bn) to expand the so-called Copernicus programme, which flies a suite of Sentinel satellites to track the health of the planet. At the end of two days of discussions, the actual figure committed was 1.8bn (1.5bn).

The extra cash will enable Esa to improve the performance of the new Sentinels.

The three spacecraft that will make up the carbon dioxide constellation will have their resolution increased, to be able to map grid squares across the globe of just 2km across. And their swath - the width of their vision - will be increased from 200km to nearly 300km. In addition, the satellites will be given more instruments to help tease apart the CO2 coming from natural sources from that which is being produced by humans.

The enhanced capability is expected to be a potent tool in helping all nations - not just European ones - better understand their carbon footprint.

Esa wants to get the new Sentinel system launched by 2025/26, to align its mapping service with the global stocktake of emissions that will be undertaken in 2028 as part of the Paris climate deal.

As well as CO2-sensing satellites, the expanded Copernicus programme will develop five other systems to measure a range of Earth variables, from the extent of Arctic sea-ice to the temperature of the global land surface.

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