Canadian greenhouse gas emission-monitoring firm GHGSat has launched the world’s first commercial space-based sensor to detect carbon dioxide emissions from individual industrial facilities such as cement or power plants. The orbital sensor, called GHGSat C10 or Vanguard, was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. GHGSat, being a firm that monitors greenhouse gas emissions, has experience detecting methane emissions.
Vanguard is a precursor to a new generation of space instruments built by GHGSat, and the experience of detecting methane emissions will allow the firm to use the sensor to provide frequent, accurate, and independent high-resolution carbon dioxide data from individual sites, GHGSat said on its website. A space-based sensor would be a new way of monitoring and reporting carbon dioxide emissions.
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In 2016, GHGSat launched the firm’s first space-based industrial greenhouse gas emissions monitoring sensor, Claire. This was a demonstrator satellite, capable of imaging down to 25 metres on the ground. The findings from this sensor gave the world a great understanding of anthropogenic methane emissions.
GHGSat makes over two million facility measurements every year, uses a constellation of nine satellites, and provides data to NASA, ESA, and the United Nations.
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The same space-proven technology is being used to change the way carbon dioxide is monitored.
Vanguard has high spatial resolution, and can focus on individual targets, accurately attributing emissions. There are public carbon dioxide emission detection satellites in orbit, but they are not designed to focus on individual targets.
However, Vanguard will allow the operators of steel mills, power plants, and petrochemical complexes to have access to standardised emissions monitoring and data.
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Some organisations may have Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS), but independent verification with the help of data provided by Vanguard will allow the industries to optimise everyday operations to reduce emissions, and will also improve the quality of Environmental, Societal, and Governance (ESG) reporting.
High resolution carbon dioxide data will add more accurate information to the emissions inventories at the national and international level. The data will also add to the accuracy of the Global Stocktake, an assessment of progress made toward mitigating global warming since the Paris Agreement in 2015. At COP28, the results from the first-ever global stocktake will be discussed.
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If data is accurate and can be trusted, the industry can be incentivised to manage emissions effectively. The data provided by Vanguard will also ensure that climate policies are well-founded, and will help the world stay on track to achieve Net Zero by 2050, according to GHGSat.
Along with Vanguard, two new methane sensors have been launched. These are GHGSat C-9 or Juba, and C-12 or Elliot.
The three satellites were launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Transporter-9 mission. About 55 minutes after liftoff, the three satellites separated from the launch vehicle.
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