A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch in 2022 a satellite to measure methane emissions worldwide.
MethaneSAT, a subsidiary of the US-based conservation group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), has selected the Elon Musk-led space launch company to deliver the satellite within a scheduled launch window that opens 1 October 2022.
“This is a unique mission on an ambitious timeline,” Dr. Steven Hamburg, MethaneSAT project co-lead, said in a release. “SpaceX offers the readiness and reliability we need to deliver our instrument into orbit and begin streaming emissions data as soon as possible.”
The 350 kilogram satellite has a 260-kilometre field of view, with a high-resolution sensor capable of observing areas as small as 100 metres by 400 metres. The sensor can detect differences in methane levels as small as two parts per billion, according to the company.
The satellite's higher sensitivity and improved spatial resolution fills a critical gap in existing detection and mapping systems, according to MethaneSAT.
The company plans to stream the data online at no charge for non-commercial users.
In addition, an advanced data platform supported by the Bezos Earth Fund is being built to automate the complex analytics required to process the data, reducing the amount of time needed by scientists to provide actionable data from several weeks to a few days.
In November, the Bezos Earth Fund announced a $100 million grant to EDF that will support critical work including completion and launch of MethaneSAT.
“Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is the fastest, most cost-effective way we have to slow the rate of warming right now, even as we continue to decarbonize the energy system,” said Mark Brownstein, EDF senior vice president for energy. “MethaneSAT is designed to create transparency and accountability to make sure companies and governments don’t miss that opportunity.”
EDF expects MethaneSAT's work to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry 45% by the year 2025, delivering the same 20-year climate benefit as shutting down one-third of the world’s coal-fired power plants. It puts the industry on a path of 75% reduction before 2030, according to the EDF.