Contract Signed to Build Europe’s Carbon Dioxide Monitoring Mission

PARIS (ESA PR) — With the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere approaching levels that humans may have never before experienced, the need to monitor sources of emissions is more urgent than ever – hence the Copernicus Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission being one of Europe’s new high-priority satellite missions.

Taking the mission a significant step forward, ESA and OHB System AG have, today, signed a contract to build the first two satellites that make up the mission.

With a contract secured worth €445 million [$525 million], OHB will lead the industrial consortium to start building the two satellites.

As the main contractor, OHB is responsible overall, and is also developing the satellite platforms. As the main sub-contractor, Thales Alenia Space will supply the instruments: the near-infrared and shortwave-infrared spectrometer that will measure emissions of carbon dioxide.

Importantly, the mission will be the first to measure how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere specifically through human activity.

Although measurements on the ground have made it possible to track general changes in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, it is not possible to make reliable statements about anthropogenic emissions from individual countries or even individual regions and cities. The new space-based measurements will also allow globally comparable data.

The Copernicus Carbon Dioxide Monitoring, mission, or CO2M for short, aims to close this gap. In turn, data gathered by CO2M will be used to help track and implement targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “We are thrilled to have the contract signed so that OHB can move forward developing the mission. Climate change is clearly something we are all very concerned about, and the CO2M mission is destined to be a game changer in monitoring emissions so that key information is available for policy-making.”

CEO of the OHB Group, Marco Fuchs, stressed, “The task of implementing the CO2M mission as prime contractor makes me very proud. The question of how the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will develop in the coming decades will also determine the fate of the global climate.”

The contract for the CO2M mission is the first to be signed following ESA’s industrial committee approval to proceed with the development of the six new Copernicus high-priority missions earlier this month.

These new missions will follow on from the suite of Sentinel missions that are currently at the heart of the EU’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. The space component of Copernicus is co-funded by EU and ESA Member States.

Copernicus is the biggest provider of Earth observation data in the world – and while the EU is at the helm of this environmental monitoring programme, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated satellites. It also operates some of the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.