Wed. Sep 27th, 2023
NASA-Built Greenhouse Gas Detector Moves Closer to Launch

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has delivered a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer to Planet Labs PBC in San Francisco, marking a significant step toward its 2024 launch. The instrument, developed by NASA, will be utilized by the nonprofit organization Carbon Mapper to pinpoint and measure greenhouse gas emissions from space.

The imaging spectrometer, designed and constructed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will enable Carbon Mapper to collect data on methane and carbon dioxide point-source emissions. It will utilize technologies developed for NASA airborne campaigns and space missions to specifically identify “super-emitters,” which are responsible for a significant fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The instrument measures various wavelengths of light reflected by the Earth’s surface and absorbed by gases in the atmosphere. Different compounds, such as methane and carbon dioxide, have distinct spectral fingerprints that can be detected by the imaging spectrometer. By analyzing these fingerprints, the instrument can provide precise measurements of greenhouse gas emissions and facilitate mitigation efforts.

After undergoing critical tests at JPL to ensure its durability and performance in space, the spectrometer was delivered to Planet Labs. It will be integrated into a Tanager satellite over the next few months. The satellite is scheduled for launch in early 2024.

This delivery marks a significant milestone for the Carbon Mapper coalition, a public-private effort that includes Carbon Mapper, JPL, Planet, the California Air Resources Board, Rocky Mountain Institute, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona. The coalition aims to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate efforts to address climate change.

The Carbon Mapper initiative also utilizes another instrument, NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), which is already in orbit on the International Space Station. Together, these instruments will support Carbon Mapper’s global survey of point-source emissions of methane and carbon dioxide.

The successful delivery of the imaging spectrometer reflects the collaboration between government, philanthropy, and industry in developing innovative solutions with the potential to make a global impact in addressing climate change.