Over the past 50 years, remote sensing via satellites has yielded both spectacular views of our planet and unprecedented scientific insight. Today, Earth-observation satellites are at the forefront of monitoring deforestation, rising sea levels and greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. At Airbus, we not only build many of these satellites but transform geospatial data into actionable insight to help fight climate change.
Satellites to monitor climate change
More than 150 Earth-observation satellites are currently in orbit. Their mission is to provide scientists with the essential data needed to detect environmental changes on Earth. Because many climate variables can only be measured from space, Earth-observation satellites are a vital tool to monitor the effects of climate change on natural ecosystems.
At Airbus, we have been managing data from the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Earth-observation satellites since the early 1990s. We are involved in all major environment-monitoring satellite programmes in Europe and play a key role in all 12 of the Copernicus missions.
Today, 27 of our satellites are involved in climate change monitoring and an additional 18 are in development. Our complete fleet of satellites measures the following aspects:
- Key atmospheric constituents
- Land and sea topography
- Air quality, temperature and humidity
- Snow and ice coverage
This critical geospatial data enables us to:
- Provide scientists with a better understanding of the Earth’s system and evolution
- Help governments and humanitarian agencies prepare for and manage disasters
- Generate environmental impact assessments for large industries
Earth-observation satellites on climate
Equipped with a Doppler wind LIDAR, this satellite monitors the Earth’s wind patterns on a global scale. The observations are used to improve weather forecasting and climate models. It has been in orbit since 2018.
Airbus satellite fleet
Owned and operated by Airbus, this satellite fleet delivers geo-intelligence services for a variety of applications. Current in-orbit satellites include optical satellites SPOT and Pléiades, as well as Vision-1 and DMC Constellation, and radar satellites TerraSAR-X, Tandem-X and PAZ.
Currently in production, this satellite will monitor the carbon captured by trees. The spacecraft will carry the first space-borne P-band synthetic aperture radar to deliver exceptionally accurate maps of tropical, temperate and boreal forest biomass that are not obtainable by ground-measurement techniques.
Copernicus & the Sentinel Family
The largest provider of Earth-observation data in the world, this European satellite programme focuses on improving environmental management, understanding and mitigating climate change effects, and ensuring civil security. Airbus-built Sentinels 2, 5P and 6 are currently in orbit. New satellites LSTM and CRISTAL, including the ROSE-L instrument, will launch as of 2027.
This satellite, currently in production, will monitor the impact of clouds and tiny atmospheric particles (aerosols) on atmospheric radiation. Key focus areas will include investigating the interrelationships between clouds and precipitation, and their effects on radiation.
Due for first launch in 2023, these two satellites will provide continuity for meteorological measurements currently collected by in-orbit MetOp satellites. Improved spectral and spatial resolution measurements are among the enhancements in this second generation.
This joint satellite programme (CNES and DLR) is set to study greenhouse gases and global warming from 2024. The satellite will use LIDAR to probe the atmosphere and determine the varying concentrations of methane. This gas, along with carbon dioxide, is one of the main contributors to the greenhouse effect.
This satellite will launch the first European mission dedicated solely to measuring CO2 levels using a spectrometer at visible and near infra-red wavelengths. This mission will complement Merlin, which measures methane levels by LIDAR.