A satellite that will monitor the potent greenhouse gas methane is set to launch next month.
The MethaneSAT satellite was delivered to Vandenberg Space Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California, by Ball Aerospace, which designed the instrument. Once launched, the satellite will locate and quantify sources of methane emissions around the world. Methane is the second leading driver of climate warning, behind carbon dioxide.
The mission was developed in partnership with MethaneSAT, part of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the satellite will fill a gap in methane monitoring. Current satellites only focus on either scale or precision, while MethaneSAT can leverage “a 200 (kilometer) field of view to measure emissions on a regional scale and high-resolution sensors capable of narrowing emissions sources to a single facility.”
News of the satellite comes after similar efforts are being made to track carbon emissions. In 2023, GHGStat launched the first satellite to pinpoint CO2 emissions from specific industrial sites.
Tracking emissions from space with accuracy can help governments incentivize businesses with regulations and emissions reductions.
“MethaneSAT will shine a bright light onto the sources of methane production, providing the public with unimpeachable scientific data about the true extent of methane emissions around the world,” Dr. Alberto Conti, vice president and general manager of civil space for Ball Aerospace, said in a statement. “Our hope is that this mission will enable policymakers to establish ambitious emission reduction targets, motivating world leaders to enhance their efforts in capturing and effectively utilizing this valuable natural gas.”
Ball Aerospace worked with scientists from EDF and MethaneSAT to design and build the satellite. Ball Aerospace will provide launch support and commissioning services for the mission, while EDF is working on a cloud-based platform to distribute MethaneSAT data publicly and free of charge. The mission’s findings and data will become transparent.
“MethaneSAT is built for one purpose: providing data to protect the Earth’s climate,” said Dr. Steven Hamburg, MethaneSAT mission lead and EDF chief scientist. “The Ball team enabled us to push the envelope to achieve the unprecedented precision required for the mission. Their talent and dedication will help unlock global benefits at a critical moment.”