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article imageCanada's GHGSat launches greenhouse gas satellite

By Karen Graham     Jun 22, 2016 in Environment
When India's PSLV rocket was launched on Tuesday, among the 20 satellites put into orbit around the Earth was a GHGSat satellite named "Claire," the world's first satellite capable of measuring greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities.
Actually, Canada had two satellites on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launched by the Indian Space Research Organization. One was an 85-kilogram M3MSat that will be used by exactEarth Ltd., for maritime tracking.
But the other satellite, the 25.5-kilogram GHGSat-D called "Claire," built by the University of Toronto’s Space Flight Laboratory has the job of measuring atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, according to Space News.
Claire is special because it is the world's first satellite capable of measuring methane gas emissions on the large scale, such as from industrial-sized facilities. This is because the satellite's sensor technology has been miniaturized to fit into a low-cost nanosatellite. Claire didn't come about overnight but is the product of three years of research and development.
Stéphane Germain, the President of Montreal-based GHGSat was quoted by Market Wired: "Today's launch is a milestone for Canadian space technology and for human environmental responsibility. Until now, measuring GHG emissions from industrial facilities has often been difficult and costly. Claire has the potential to offer consistent, objective greenhouse gas emissions measurements for everyone in the world. Now that our satellite is in orbit, we look forward to demonstrating and validating this exciting new technology."
GHGSat says it will offer greenhouse gas measurement and monitoring services to industrial emitters in sectors such as oil & gas, power generation, mining, waste management and agriculture. With Claire giving these industries a clearer picture of their emissions, better control will be possible and greenhouse gas emissions can ultimately be reduced.
Claire's development and successful launch was made possible through the support of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), Boeing, LOOKNorth, the Canadian Space Agency, and several other customers and suppliers.
"SDTC is proud to have supported GHGSat's technology. We are excited about the launch of the satellite and all the opportunity that it brings to reduce harmful emissions. We look forward to seeing the results that Claire sends back to Earth," said Leah Lawrence, president and CEO of SDTC.
Some facts about Claire
Claire is about the size of a microwave, but don't let her small size fool you. The GHGSat was put into polar orbit around the Earth at 23:57 on 21 June 2016. Claire will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes or so, traveling at over 7 km per second.
Claire is about the size of a microwave  and orbits the Earth every 90 minutes or so  travelling at ...
Claire is about the size of a microwave, and orbits the Earth every 90 minutes or so, travelling at over 7 km per second.
The little satellite will be measuring two greenhouse gases, methane, and carbon dioxide, which together make up more than 90 percent of all GHG emissions worldwide. When Claire's mission is complete in about five years, the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere.
Right now, Claire has the capacity to measure 1,000 sites annually. Once GHGSat has validated Claire's technology, the company will launch additional satellites to ultimately offer services for hundreds of thousands of industrial sites around the world.
How does Claire work?
Every gas absorbs light, but at a specific wavelength particular to the gas itself. The absorption creates a "spectral fingerprint," specific to that gas, much like human fingerprints are specific to a particular person. So as Claire orbits the Earth, the satellite will be constantly taking "spectral fingerprints" of industrial sites around the world.
Claire will find those spectral fingerprints using sunlight, using instruments to measure the wavelengths and determine how much of each gas being measured is present in the satellite's view at a particular location. GHGSat says that Claire will take measurements around the globe, from oil wells in Texas, oil sands in Canada, power plants in Europe, coal mines in China, and even rice paddies in Vietnam.
The output of those measurements will include imagery and data products  as this simulation for a hy...
The output of those measurements will include imagery and data products, as this simulation for a hydroelectric power plant in South America shows.
As the reader can see from the image above, concentrations of methane (CH4) in a plume are being carried downwind from an aerating weir at a hydroelectric dam.
The imagery is made possible because the satellite uses two sensors to arrive at such measurements: A 2D Wide-Angle Fabry-Perot (“WAF-P”) imaging spectrometer, and a Clouds & Aerosols (“C&A”) sensor. The WAF-P will measure vertical column densities of CO2 and methane while the C&A will measure interference from clouds and aerosols in the field of view of the WAF-P.
More about GHGSat, Greenhouse gas emissions, PSLV rocket, industrial facilities, sensor technology
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