Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Sacramento, CA, United States (4E) – California will become the first state in the Union to launch its own satellites for pollution monitoring.
Governor Jerry Brown announced this epoch-making event over the weekend. To get this done, California is partnering with Planet Labs, Inc to develop a customized cube satellites, or CubeSats that will “pinpoint — and stop — destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”
Technical details of the satellites will be announced later but those in the known said the new California satellites will likely be a constellation of 6U CubeSats with instruments to detect certain gases and particulates. An orbit with the satellite passing across the entire state along its north/south axis seems most likely. Multiple satellites in a constellation are very likely.
Design of the satellites will be financed by the Overlook International Foundation and the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. No project costs were revealed, and no launch date has been projected.was announced. But costs will probably run only into the hundreds of thousands of dollars since only small CubeSats will be used.
“With science still under attack—we’re under attack by a lot of people, including Donald Trump—and with the climate threat growing, we’re going to launch a satellite—our own damn satellite to figure out where the pollution is and how we’re going to end it,” said Brown.
California’s satellite fleet will be used by the state’s Air Resources Board to complement existing climate observatories. It will precisely locate the “point source” of pollutants it observes as they are emitted. This real-time detection will allow California authorities to control these pollution sources more effectively.
Data collected by the satellite constellation will be shared with the public through a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund. Planet Lab will develop and operate the satellites.
“These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “They won’t cut emissions by themselves, but they will make invisible pollution visible and generate the transparent, actionable, data we need to protect our health, our environment and our economies.”
EDF is launching its own satellite to that end (MethaneSAT), but will also be collaborating with California in the creation of a shared Climate Data Partnership to make sure the data from these platforms is widely accessible.
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