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Earth’s oceans help to slow global warming by absorbing carbon from our atmosphere – but fully observing this crucial process in the upper ocean and lower atmosphere is difficult, as measurements are taken not where it occurs, the sea surface, but several metres below. New research uses data from ESA, NASA and NOAA satellites to rectify this, and finds that far more carbon is absorbed by the oceans than previously thought.
The Spanish high-resolution land imaging mission, known as SEOSAT-Ingenio, will soon be shipped from Airbus, in Madrid, to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana - where it will be prepared for launch later this year on a Vega rocket. The Earth-observing satellite carries a state-of-the-art dual camera that can image Earth’s land with a resolution of 2.5 m. The mission will benefit society through numerous disciplines such as cartography, agriculture, forestry, urban development and water management.
With its capability to look sideways, it can access any point on Earth within three days, and will be used to help map natural disasters such as floods, wildfires and earthquakes – as well as help with one of humankind’s biggest challenges: understanding and responding to climate change. While SEOSAT–Ingenio is a Spanish national mission, it is the result of an international collaborative effort. The mission is funded by Spain’s Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) of the Ministry of Science and Innovation, but developed by ESA in the context of the European Earth Observation Architecture.
Monitoring the cryosphere is essential to fully assess, predict and adapt to climate variability and change. Given the importance of this fragile component of the Earth system, today ESA, along with Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, have signed a contract to develop the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter mission, known as CRISTAL.
Over the past month, dozens of wildfires have burned vast swathes of land in California, Oregon and Washington State, killing more than 30 people and smothering the majority of the western United States in smoke. While photographs have circulated online showing the apocalyptic orange skies, satellites in orbit around Earth carry different instruments that can provide not only images, but a wealth of complementary information needed to monitor the blazes.
Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. According to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollution now contributes to one in eight deaths in Europe. Observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have been vital in tracking the evolution of air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide concentrations, across Europe.
Week in images: 14-18 September 2020
Discover our week through the lens
Europe’s space community came together through two days of virtual presentations and business-to-business meetings during ESA’s online Industry Space Days on 16–17 September.
Today, at her State of the Union address before the European Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, proposed a new target of a 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The current target is a 40% reduction. With such ambitious goals ahead for Europe, understanding how greenhouse gases end up in the atmosphere and the intricacies of the carbon cycle is essential – something that satellites observing Earth can help provide.
Join astronauts and experts for an aural journey through the history of European spaceflight in the latest series of ESA podcast, ESA Explores Time and Space.
The International Space Station is an exciting place for experiments. This one in particular was making waves in space. Called Fluidics, the experiment studies fluid dynamics in microgravity and recently performed another successful round of science on board the Space Station.
Developed by French space agency CNES and co-funded by Airbus Defense and Space, the Fluidics or Fluid Dynamics in Space experiment is probing how fluids behave in weightlessness.
Have you ever tried walking while carrying a full cup of water? Your steps invariably cause the water to slosh about, making spills hard to avoid. Now imagine a satellite turning – the fuel inside will slosh, affecting the satellite’s stability. The experiment will help improve the performance of satellite propellant systems, extending their working lives by using every last drop in their tanks.
A second part of the Fluidics experiment will look at capillary wave turbulence in liquids. On Earth, gravity and surface tension influence how energy dissipates in waves or ripples. In space, scientists can observe how surface forces behave without gravity.
By looking at capillary wave turbulence without gravity interfering, researchers can single out non-linear interactions. This could help us improve climate models forecasting the sea states and better understand wave formation on Earth, like rogue waves for example.
The experiment is made up of five small, transparent spheres housed in a black centrifuge seen here. Three spheres hold water for the wave-turbulence research; the other two carry a special liquid with low viscosity and little surface tension for sloshing.
Fluidics was first installed and run by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet during his Proxima mission in 2016. The most recent session was completed by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy in the European laboratory on board the Space Station.
Learn more about the Fluidics experiment with this infographic.
Today ESA awarded a €129.4 million contract covering the detailed design, manufacturing and testing of Hera, the Agency’s first mission for planetary defence. This ambitious mission will be Europe’s contribution to an international asteroid deflection effort, set to perform sustained exploration of a double asteroid system.
It's that time of year again: everyone is back to school! Like many, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is also studying, for his next mission to the International Space Station. Join Thomas in learning about Earth and space by participating in ESA Education's 2020-21 school projects.
Space missions are complex and require input from many specialists. The Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) is where most of ESA missions are conceived and conceptually designed. In this episode of Meet the Experts, Massimo Bandecchi, the founding father of ESA's CDF, explains Concurrent Design (CD) and some of the missions studied using this methodology.