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Satellite Missions Catalogue

Carbon Mapper

Apr 27, 2022

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Quick facts

Overview

Mission typeEO

Carbon Mapper Mission

Launch    References

Carbon Mapper, Inc. of Greenbrae, CA, is a non-profit entity with a mission to deliver and guide the adoption of digital public goods that facilitate timely action to mitigate human impacts to Earth's climate and ecosystems. 1)

There is an urgent need for a wide range of actions to accelerate methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) mitigation, climate adaptation and conservation. Barriers include high costs for methane leak detection, gaps in self-reported CO2 data for key emission sectors, incomplete observations of priority regions at scales relevant for decision making, and lack of data accessibility and transparency. Our airborne pilot projects, using advanced remote sensing technology, are demonstrating the potential for an operational satellite data service that can help accelerate sub-national climate action. We plan to:

• Persistently pinpoint, quantify and track strong methane and CO2 emissions at facility scale

• Offer a rapid methane leak detection service to facility operators and regulators

• Deliver independent data to help certify methane intensity for oil and gas supply chains

• Increase global accessibility, transparency and understanding of methane and CO2 data

• Work with key partners to advance new data-driven emission mitigation strategies.

Powered by philanthropy, Carbon Mapper convenes a unique coalition of private and public sector actors with the combined expertise and resources to deploy a science-driven, sustained and operational decision support service for maximum impact.

NASA/JPL will deliver the hyperspectral imaging spectrometer payload for the first Carbon Mapper satellite, leveraging advanced remote sensing technology with many years of heritage on aircraft and spacecraft. JPL will also provide technical assistance to Planet's development of the payload for the additional satellites. These spectrometers offer unparalleled sensitivity, resolution, and versatility.

Planet, operator of the largest-ever fleet of earth imaging satellites, will design and build the satellites – leveraging the hyperspectral imaging sensor from NASA JPL – and operate the fleet with its existing missions system architecture. Planet will further contribute its rapid revisit satellites, data, and analytics technologies to deliver and pinpoint methane emission for governments, private and public institutions, citizens, facility operators and more. Planet's ability to commercialize data products is key to the buildout and continuity of the multi-satellite constellation.

California Air Resources Board (CARB) maintains policy leadership and a pioneering approach to understanding and taking action to reduce climate pollutants and exposure in communities impacted by air pollution. CARB is already working with University of Arizona, JPL, and ASU to use airborne prototypes of Carbon Mapper to demonstrate mitigation and improved accounting with facility operators across California.

High Tide Foundation has led the extensive philanthropic investment in Carbon Mapper through which they are seeking to deliver on their goal to have a significant measurable impact on climate change mitigation.

The University of Arizona offers scientific leadership of the methane and CO2 emissions data delivery, including developing new algorithms and analytic frameworks and testing them with an ongoing airborne research program. The University also provides key staff and other resources to the Carbon Mapper non-profit.

Arizona State University (ASU) provides scientific leadership for non-methane and CO2 data products and supports Planet's efforts to develop new environmental indicators on the land and in the oceans. ASU's Global Airborne Observatory is also critical for Carbon Mapper's airborne prototyping and field campaigns.

RMI helps guide methane use case applications for Carbon Mapper, satellite observation targeting, industry mitigation opportunities, and policy development through its Oil and Gas Solutions Initiative.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, one of the original funders of Satellites for Climate Action, believes access to accurate data is one of the most powerful tools we have in tackling the climate crisis. This partnership builds on Bloomberg Philanthropies' environmental portfolio, which has a long track record of bringing data and transparency solutions to the fight against climate change, including initiatives such as the Bloomberg Global Coal Countdown.

"Methane emissions are one of the leading causes of climate change around the world, but we need more data to identify the most effective ways to reduce them," said Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City. "As I like to say, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it – and the Carbon Mapper will be a valuable tool in helping us do both."

Carbon Mapper is setting out to contribute to the growing community of organizations offering science-based guidance to decision makers at all levels of society and builds on Satellites for Climate Action, an initiative launched in 2019 to bring together governments, philanthropists, environmental groups, and technology companies to use satellite technologies to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and turn satellite data into actionable information.

Carbon Mapper is supported by funding from a group of leading philanthropists: High Tide Foundation, Grantham Foundation for Protection of the Environment, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Zegar Family Foundation, other philanthropic donors, and the University of Arizona.

 


 

Examples of past activities using airborne imagery

Methane and CO2 examples

We've been working with facility operators, industry groups and regulators for several years to share our airborne data and collaborate on mitigation efforts. For methane, this has resulted in an ongoing dialog and collective learning with operators about some of the mechanisms that drive strong point source emissions, as well as a number of cases of successful leak repairs in California informed by our data and confirmed with follow up observations. We are continuing to expand these pilot programs to other regions and sectors in the US and Canada. Here we share some case studies using airborne prototypes of the Carbon Mapper satellites including JPL's next-generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-NG) and ASU's Global Airborne Observatory (GAO). Stay tuned for a forthcoming publication summarizing a larger set of methane mitigation success stories.

During airborne surveys of California in 2016-2017 with NASA's AVIRIS-NG instrument, our team detected a number of leaks in low pressure natural gas pipelines in neighborhoods and other populated areas. In each case, we shared our data (methane plume images and coordinates) with the relevant gas utility, which promptly dispatched technicians to the location where they quickly verified and repaired the leaks. Many urban areas have thousands of miles of natural gas distribution pipelines that are currently difficult to survey more often than annually. This illustrates the value of remote sensing in helping alert utilities to potentially hazardous leaks. This example is from a gas leak in a neighborhood in the Los Angeles basin. We have detected and reported similar leaks in other parts of California, New Mexico and Salt Lake City.

Figure 1: Natural gas pipeline leak detection and repair (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)
Figure 1: Natural gas pipeline leak detection and repair (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)

In Summer and Fall of 2020, our team analyzed AVIRIS-NG and GAO data to detect a number of leaks at oil and gas production sides in the southern San Joaquin Valley in California. In each case, we shared our data (methane plume images and coordinates) with the relevant operator, which dispatched technicians to the location to confirm and in some cases repair leaks. In the video, methane plumes observed at the same site over several days indicate a persistent leak near an oil production site. The plume is changing direction with the prevailing wind.

Figure 2: Oil well leak detection and repair (video credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)

Informing landfill gas management

During initial AVIRIS-NG airborne surveys of California in 2016 our team detected some very strong methane emissions at a subset of landfills across the state. We shared our plume images and coordinates with some of the facility operators and local enforcement agencies.

Figure 3: Reduction in methane emissions from intermediate cover verified by airborne monitoring (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)
Figure 3: Reduction in methane emissions from intermediate cover verified by airborne monitoring (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)
Figure 4: In this example, one of the landfill operators in southern California confirmed the methane emissions and determined they were due to problems with surface cover and gas capture systems. Over the next year the operator instituted a number of changes that dramatically reduced the methane emissions. Subsequent flyovers confirmed a corresponding reduction in the number of odor complaints for that facility (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)
Figure 4: In this example, one of the landfill operators in southern California confirmed the methane emissions and determined they were due to problems with surface cover and gas capture systems. Over the next year the operator instituted a number of changes that dramatically reduced the methane emissions. Subsequent flyovers confirmed a corresponding reduction in the number of odor complaints for that facility (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)

 

Power plant leak detection and repair

Figure 5: In Summer of 2020, our team analyzed AVIRIS-NG aircraft data to identify a persistent methane leak at a natural gas fired power plant in Los Angeles. We notified the operator who confirmed the leak. The operator subsequently reported that leak repairs began in early September and we can see the impact on the methane plume in the last two images of the movie below (video credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)

Towards full carbon accounting

Carbon Mapper is designed to track high emitting methane and CO2 point sources which offers the potential to help improve accounting of the total carbon footprint of energy supply chains. The following images of the San Juan coal mine and nearby power plant (Figure 6) provides an example of this on a local scale. In this case, methane gas is venting to the atmosphere during coal extraction (right-most inset box). Extracted coal is sent to the power plant, where CO2 is released as a byproduct of electricity generation (left box). In most cases the fuel source (mine) and power plant are not in such close proximity as shown here but this illustrates the general concept.

Figure 6: CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plant and CH4 emissions from coal mine (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)
Figure 6: CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plant and CH4 emissions from coal mine (image credit: Carbon Mapper collaboration)

 

Instrumentation

NASA/JPL is providing the instrument that will enable a nonprofit organization called Carbon Mapper to pinpoint and measure methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) point-sources from space. The data collected by the instrument will help to find super-emitters – the small percentage of individual sources that are responsible for a significant fraction of global emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. 2)

Figure 7: Data collected with the Global Airborne Observatory over the Permian Basin in 2019, a joint campaign with NASA's AVIRIS-NG (image credit: Carbon Mapper, U. Arizona/Arizona State University/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Figure 7: Data collected with the Global Airborne Observatory over the Permian Basin in 2019, a joint campaign with NASA's AVIRIS-NG (image credit: Carbon Mapper, U. Arizona/Arizona State University/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

"JPL is excited to be pioneering this research effort, which will provide critical information about greenhouse gases and the future of Earth's climate," said James Graf, director for the Earth Science and Technology Directorate at JPL. "This effort is the first time we have partnered on a space mission with a consortium of nonprofit organizations, universities, and the State of California."

The first Carbon Mapper satellite is targeting a 2023 launch. JPL will provide a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer, a type of instrument used widely in scientific research. Where a digital photograph breaks down visible light into just three colors – red, green, and blue – an imaging spectrometer breaks down light into hundreds of colors to reveal the unique spectral signatures of molecules such as methane and carbon dioxide in the air.

JPL has been developing imaging spectrometers since the 1980s for NASA, and its instruments have unmatched performance. In the last few years, the laboratory has used these imagers deployed on airplanes to measure atmospheric gases, including methane in California and the Four Corners region of the U.S. JPL imaging spectrometers will also be aboard upcoming missions to the Moon and Jupiter's moon Europa.

Figure 8: A methane plume detected by NASA's AVIRIS-NG in summer 2020 indicates a leaking gas line in oil field in California. The operator subsequently confirmed and repaired the leak (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Figure 8: A methane plume detected by NASA's AVIRIS-NG in summer 2020 indicates a leaking gas line in oil field in California. The operator subsequently confirmed and repaired the leak (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Carbon Mapper's Earth-orbiting imaging spectrometer will have a pixel size of about 30 meters (98 feet) square. Other imaging spectrometers currently in orbit have larger pixel sizes, making it hard to pinpoint the locations of sources that may not be visible on the ground, such as cracks in natural gas pipelines. "With such high-resolution images, there is no question where greenhouse gas plumes originate. This technology enables researchers to identify, study, and quantify the strong gas emission sources," said JPL scientist Charles Miller, who has spent decades studying methane around the world.

JPL's research in methane quantification from spectroscopy, funded by NASA's Earth science division, is also helping Carbon Mapper to address a second challenge: making its data on emissions accessible to all interested users in industry, government, and the private sector. Carbon Mapper will have an open data portal making its findings available quickly and continuously, speeding disaster responses and the repair of faulty industrial equipment.

"This decade represents an all-hands-on-deck moment for humanity to make critical progress in addressing climate change," said Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper's chief executive officer and a research scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Our mission is to help fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data that are timely, actionable and accessible for science-based decision making."

NASA's Earth science division pioneers technological innovations that propel observations and scientific understanding of the changing Earth system. Besides JPL, other Carbon Mapper partners are the State of California, Planet, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, High Tide Foundation, and RMI.

 


 

Development status: Carbon Mapper Launches Satellite Program to Pinpoint Methane and CO2 Super Emitters

• April 26, 2022: Advanced Cooling Technologies (ACT), a thermal management specialist, announced a contract with Planet to design and build structures for the first two Carbon Mapper methane-monitoring satellites. 3)

Figure 9: Advanced Cooling Technologies of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, specializes in satellite thermal management (image credit: ACT)
Figure 9: Advanced Cooling Technologies of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, specializes in satellite thermal management (image credit: ACT)

- ACT manufacturers ammonia-based heat pipes for a variety of space programs including NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) lunar rover.

- Compared to those missions, heat management for the Carbon Mapper constellation is relatively straightforward, Kim Mancuso, ACT sales engineer, told SpaceNews.

- What's unique about ACT's role in Carbon Mapper is the structural component. In addition to designing of the thermal architecture for Carbon Mapper satellites, ACT will fabricate the satellite bus including the structural frame, radiator panels and heat pipes for the first two satellites scheduled to launch in 2023.

- "We have a little more scope than we typically do," said Bryan Muzyka, ACT sales and marketing manager. "Because it's a small spacecraft and the thermal is one of the major bottlenecks in performance, they wanted to have a thermal solutions provider as the lead for those areas. We are not only transferring the heat, but we're also embedding that capability into radiator panels."

- A consortium led by the State of California, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Planet announced plans in April 2021 to launch a constellation of Carbon Mapper satellites equipped with hyperspectral sensors to detect, quantify and track sources of methane and carbon dioxide. Additional partners include the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the High Tide Foundation and the non-profit RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) in Colorado.

- "While we're proud of all our work in the space industry, the Carbon Mapper program provides not only an exciting scope of work, but also allows our team to be part of a truly rewarding program," Ryan Spangler, ACT Orbital and Space Systems Group engineering manager, said in a statement.

• January 24, 2022: Today, Carbon Mapper and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released insights generated from three years of airborne surveys (conducted between 2019 and 2021) using advanced remote sensing technology to pinpoint, quantify, and track methane emissions from oil and gas production facilities in the Permian Basin across Texas and New Mexico. 4)

- The data reveals that about 30 facilities—including pipelines, well pads, compressor stations and processing facilities—persistently emitted large volumes of methane over multiple years, and that repairing those leaks could immediately reduce 100,000 metric tons of methane per year. These 30 facilities make up less than .001% of the region's oil and gas infrastructure, and yet they produce the same near-term climate pollution as about half a million passenger vehicles. The mitigation of these 30 super-emitters would prevent $26 million a year in wasted gas.

- Cutting methane—a super-potent greenhouse gas with vastly greater near-term warming potential than CO2—has become a heightened priority domestically and internationally given the urgency of the climate crisis. Recently, the U.S. and more than 100 other countries signed the Global Methane Pledge to cut methane 30% by 2030.

- "In this decisive decade for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every molecule matters, and the fact that some facilities are persistently leaking methane for years without detection or repair highlights the urgent need for comprehensive and transparent methane monitoring," said Riley Duren, Chief Executive Officer for Carbon Mapper and Research Scientist at the University of Arizona. "The magnitude of emissions coming from a handful of methane sources in one of the top oil- and gas-producing regions illustrates the opportunity to make significant near-term progress toward the stated methane reduction goals of the U.S., other countries, and companies around the world."

Solving the Problem

- Cumulatively, the Carbon Mapper research team detected nearly 1,100 super emitters across the Permian Basin over the course of their research which was performed as part of a joint NASA, RMI, and University of Arizona research program and EDF's PermianMAP initiative. These facilities ultimately contribute to about half of the basin's total methane emissions. While leaks at these facilities are very large, most are shorter in duration and underscore the need for frequent monitoring of all facilities basin-wide to pinpoint and mitigate as many super emitting sites as possible.

- Rules being advanced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have the potential to address oil and gas pollution by requiring regular monitoring at most processing facilities and production sites—including at smaller, leak-prone wells. The NMED rules will be finalized in March and the EPA is accepting comment on its current rule proposal through Jan. 31. EPA is also expected to issue a supplemental proposal this spring that will further address pollution from smaller wells and routine flaring. Comprehensive EPA rules represent the Biden administration's biggest and most immediate opportunity to achieve significant pollution reductions across the Permian region as well as its commitments under the global methane pledge.

- "It takes a combination of ground-based inspections and frequent advanced screening, such as aerial monitoring, to effectively find and fix these recurring sources of methane emissions," said David Lyon, senior scientist at Environmental Defense Fund. "We know methane can be emitted across a wide range of infrastructure and can be cost-effectively reduced with a combination of strong regulations and available technologies."

Gathering Pipelines

- The high-resolution data also reveals important insights about the types of equipment releasing methane, to within a few meters of its location. Gathering pipelines appear to be a significant source of leakage in the Permian, responsible for nearly 20% of the observed persistent super-emitters. But of the 435,000 miles of U.S. onshore gathering pipelines, only 11,569 miles (less than 3%) are currently subject to federal leak survey standards set by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

- The PIPES Act of 2020 expanded PHMSA's responsibility to protect the environment and specifically called for enhanced oversight of gathering lines. PHMSA issued a new rule to expand leak survey requirements to an additional 20,336 miles of gathering lines, set to take effect in May 2022 – but industry groups oppose that requirement and are seeking reconsideration of the rule.

- "PHMSA must continue to improve oversight of gathering lines and require the use of advance methane monitoring to find and fix pipeline leaks," said Erin Murphy, EDF Senior Attorney for Energy Markets and Utility Regulation. "In fact, reports show there are more commercially available solutions for controlling pipeline emissions today than ever before."

About the Data Collection

- The data was collected by flights funded by NASA, the University of Arizona, RMI, and EDF using Arizona State University's Global Airborne Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Next Generation Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer.

- Data and imagery from Carbon Mapper's airborne surveys in the Permian Basin are available online through PermianMAP and Carbon Mapper's Data Portal. The two organizations are also working with partners to launch a new generation of satellites—MethaneSAT and the Carbon Mapper constellation—that will expand methane monitoring globally starting in 2023. Both organizations are committed to providing transparent, third-party data on emissions to companies, officials, and regulators so they can take swift, science-based action to mitigate methane.

- Carbon Mapper is a non-profit organization focused on facilitating timely action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Its mission is to fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data at facility scale that is precise, timely, and accessible to empower science-based decision making and action. To achieve this mission, the organization is leading the development of the Carbon Mapper constellation of satellites supported by a public-private partnership composed of Planet, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the California Air Resources Board, and RMI, with funding from High Tide Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Grantham Foundation, and other philanthropic donors. For more information, please visit carbonmapper.org and follow us on Twitter @carbonmapper.

- One of the world's leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia, and the European Union, EDF's scientists, economists, attorneys, and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund

• January 20, 2022: Improving Efforts to Measure and Monitor Greenhouse Gas Emissions, CEOS (Committee on Earth Observation Satellites). 5)

Background

1) Fossil fuel combustion, land use change and other human activities are now adding ~40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere each year.

- These emissions have increased the atmospheric CO2 concentration by ~50% since the beginning of the industrial age, from ~277 to ~415 ppm and are currently increasing it by 2-3 ppm/year

- These changes would have been much larger if natural "sinks" in the land biosphere and ocean had not absorbed over half of these anthropogenic CO2 emissions

- The identity & location of these natural sinks, and their response to climate change are uncertain

2) Over this same period, human activities have increased atmospheric methane (CH4) concentrations by ~160%, from ~0.72 ppm to more than 1.88 ppm.

- Over the past decade, emissions have ~0.58 billion tons/year, ~60% of which is anthropogenic

- While CH4 concentrations are much lower than those of CO2, it is a more potent greenhouse gas, with a greenhouse gas warming potential 28-36 times that of CO2 on 100-year time scales.

3) CO2 and CH4 account for ~90% of the present-day global warming. Reducing these emissions is the major thrust of the Mitigation objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Challenges for Estimating CO2 and CH4 Emissions from Atmospheric Measurements (CEOS)

4) CO2 and CH4 can be retrieved from space using similar methods, but these two long-lived greenhouse gases pose unique challenges

- Quantifying CO2 concentrations requires very high precision and accuracy, since only the largest sources produce XCO2 changes larger the 1 ppm out of the 415 ppm background (< 0.25%)

- Currently, from orbit, only large, public sector high-resolution spectrometers meet these requirements

- Anthropogenic CO2 emission sources of must be quantified in the context of natural sources and sinks that are often co-located with the source – high spatial resolution and coverage are essential

- CH4 has a diverse range of sources, ranging from intense emission plumes from pipelines to large scale, weakly emitting wetlands and agricultural sources, which are the largest emitters

- Private-sector hyperspectral imaging satellites are playing a role in detection of intense point sources

5) Accurate estimates of the winds are essential for estimating fluxes from atmospheric measurements of CO2 and CH4

- Currently, the transport algorithms in flux inversion models introduce errors comparable to the CO2 measurement uncertainties from space-based measurements.

• May 19, 2021: Companies and organizations used a House hearing May 18 to advocate for a larger role in NASA's Earth science programs, arguing their capabilities can complement NASA spacecraft. 6)

Figure 10: Carbon Mapper, a partnership involving Planet, JPL and the state of California, will track "superemitters" of greenhouse gases with freely available data, while Planet will be able to commercialize other data products using the spacecraft (image credit: Planet)
Figure 10: Carbon Mapper, a partnership involving Planet, JPL and the state of California, will track "superemitters" of greenhouse gases with freely available data, while Planet will be able to commercialize other data products using the spacecraft (image credit: Planet)

The hearing by the House space subcommittee on NASA's Earth science programs devoted much of its attention to how commercial Earth imaging spacecraft could supplement NASA missions to study climate change, a growing priority for both the agency and the Biden administration.

"As NASA is creating its next flagship missions, including the Landsat Next program, NASA should incorporate the planned, viable commercial capabilities into their procurement strategies and seek commercial capabilities as a forethought, rather than an afterthought," said Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet.

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are, under Landsat Next, studying architectures for future Earth science satellites to follow Landsat-9. The agencies have said they are open to approaches far different from the traditional designs of single large spacecraft, but Schingler said in his written testimony that the government has offered mixed messages in recent requests for information "that favor a more traditional and expensive architecture toward large satellite designs."

He said NASA should be thinking about how to fill data gaps in a "system of systems" that includes both its own spacecraft and Europe's Copernicus series of Earth observation missions, something that he said could be done with commercial spacecraft. "At this early stage of a procurement strategy, we do urge this committee, and NASA and USGS, to open up the aperture and to consider more novel and innovative approaches toward the next-generation Landsat Next program."

An example of a novel and innovative approach highlighted at the hearing is Carbon Mapper, a public-private partnership that includes Planet, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the state of California. The project, announced April 15, will place a series of satellites in orbit to track emissions of greenhouse gases.

Riley Duren, a research scientist at the University of Arizona and chief executive of Carbon Mapper Inc., the nonprofit organization leading the project, said at the hearing that the project will provide data to identify "superemitters" of methane and carbon dioxide, such as pipeline or tank leaks.

"This suggests low-hanging fruit, if you will, for near-term progress," he said. "The idea here is that a high-fidelity constellation of satellites could offer daily facility-scale methane monitoring over key regions globally to alert operators and regulators of leaks in the most timely and cost-effective way."

He noted that, like NASA missions, Carbon Mapper will make data freely available, leveraging the project's philanthropic support. Planet, though, will be able to commercialize other applications of the data the project's satellites collect, sharing revenue with Carbon Mapper. "It's part of what's innovative about this," he said. "It will help address one of the challenges we face with federal programs, and that is continuity: how do you keep these observations going once you start them?"

Schingler also asked Congress to support NASA's Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program. Under that program, NASA purchases imagery and other data from commercial spacecraft for use by scientists. "My main recommendation for this committee in particular is to put into statute the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program and to robustly fund it," he said.

That program is not formally authorized, and it is not included in a NASA authorization bill that the Senate Commerce Committee attached to a National Science Foundation bill May 12. That bill, now called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, is being debated by the full Senate this week.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chairman of the space subcommittee, appeared open to including it, stating at the hearing that he hopes to take up a NASA authorization bill later this year.

Karen St. Germain, director of NASA's Earth sciences division, said she supported greater partnerships with commercial providers. The agency has been working to negotiate, as part of commercial smallsat data purchases, licensing terms that will allow it to distribute the data not just to the agency's own researchers but others as well.

"I couldn't be more excited by the possibilities enabled by all of the growth in commercial Earth observation," she said. "They absolutely complement our government systems and they expand the scope of the science that we can do."

• April 2021: Carbon Mapper, a new nonprofit organization, and its partners – the State of California, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL), Planet, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University (ASU), High Tide Foundation and RMI – today announced a pioneering program to help improve understanding of and accelerate reductions in global methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In addition, the Carbon Mapper consortium announced its plan to deploy a ground-breaking hyperspectral satellite constellation with the ability to pinpoint, quantify and track point-source methane and CO2 emissions. 7)

"This decade represents an all-hands-on-deck moment for humanity to make critical progress in addressing climate change," said Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper CEO and research scientist at the University of Arizona. "Our mission is to help fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data that's timely, actionable and accessible for science-based decision making."

"The Carbon Mapper consortium is a novel multi-stakeholder partnership where each actor is an expert in their own domain that allows for us to do more than we can alone," said Robbie Schingler, Planet co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer. "Planet is proud to be the commercial and technology partner to deliver needed data for climate action while accelerating humanity toward a more efficient, sustainable global economy."

As the window to limit global warming narrows, there is an urgent need to deploy new technologies that can quickly and accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. Current approaches to measure methane and CO2 emissions at the scale of individual facilities – particularly intermittent activity – present challenges especially in terms of transparency, accuracy, scalability and cost. In short, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.

"These home-grown satellites are a game-changer. They provide California with a powerful, state-of-the-art tool to help us slash emissions of the super-pollutant methane– within our own borders and around the world. That's exactly the kind of dynamic, forward-thinking solution we need now to address the existential crisis of climate change," states California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Carbon Mapper will help overcome these technological barriers and enable accelerated action by making high emitting methane and CO2 sources publicly visible and at the facility level quickly and persistently. The data collected by the Carbon Mapper constellation of satellites will provide more complete, precise, and timely measurement of point source methane and CO2 emissions as well as 25+ other environmental indicators.

"What makes Carbon Mapper unique is that it greatly expands both methane and CO2 emissions transparency for decision makers and civil society," said RMI Senior Fellow Deborah Gordon. "RMI can use Carbon Mapper to help certify low-methane natural gas and make emissions visible to accelerate action on a global scale."

Carbon Mapper, in collaboration with its public and private partners, is developing the satellite constellation in three phases. The initial study phase is complete and included two years of preliminary engineering development and manufacturing. Phase 1 is underway and includes development of the first two satellites by Planet and NASA JPL, planned to launch in 2023, accompanying data processing platforms, and ongoing cooperative methane mitigation pilot projects using aircraft in California and other US states. Phase 2, which is in development, would encompass the expansion to an operational multi-satellite constellation starting in 2025.

Carbon Mapper, in collaboration with California's Air Resources Board (CARB), is also developing a public portal to make the data available for use by industry, governments, and private citizens to improve greenhouse gas accounting, expedite repair of leaks, support disaster response, and improve environmental resilience.

"These satellites will help California identify and reduce methane emissions from industrial and energy sources, and also provides valuable data to help us manage our natural and working lands for climate resiliency," says CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. "CARB looks forward to providing a public platform for the greenhouse gas data and exploring how the land-use data can inform decisions on forest management, fire prevention and water quality."

"High Tide led the funding effort for Carbon Mapper to catalyze low-cost mitigation of greenhouse gases, by creating an innovative partnership model to identify dangerous leaks of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon Mapper is uniquely positioned to maximize the impact of philanthropic dollars," states Richard Lawrence, Founder and Director of High Tide Foundation.

 

Launch: The first two Carbon Mapper satellites are scheduled to launch in 2023.

 


1) "Mission Overview," Carbon Mapper, 2022, URL: https://carbonmapper.org/our-mission/

2) "NASA-Built Instrument Will Help to Spot Greenhouse Gas Super-Emitters," NASA/JPL News, 15 April 2021, URL: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasa-built-instrument-will-help-to-spot-greenhouse-gas-super-emitters?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nasajpl&utm_content=weekly20210416-3

3) Debra Werner, "ACT to embed thermal management in Carbon Mapper structures," SpaceNews, 26 April 2022, URL: https://spacenews.com/act-carbon-mapper/

4) "Dozens of "super-emitting" oil and gas facilities leaked methane pollution in Permian Basin for years on end," Carbon Mapper, 24 January 2022, URL: https://carbonmapper.org/dozens-of-super-emitting-oil-and-gas-facilities-leaked-methane-pollution-in-permian-basin-for-years-on-end/

5) David Crisp, NASA/JPL, Retired,"Estimating Carbon Dioxide and Methane Emissions from Space," PCAST Meeting, 20 January 2022, URL: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Crisp_PCAST-mtg_20JAN2022.pdf

6) Jeff Foust, "Private sector seeks bigger role in NASA Earth science programs," SpaceNews, 19 May 2021, URL: https://spacenews.com/private-sector-seeks-bigger-role-in-nasa-earth-science-programs/

7) "Carbon Mapper Launches Satellite Program to Pinpoint Methane and CO2 Super Emitters," Carbon Mapper, 15 April 2021, URL: https://carbonmapper.org/carbon-mapper-launches-satellite-program-to-pinpoint-methane-and-co2-super-emitters/
 


The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (herb.kramer@gmx.net).

 

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