Spectrometer monitors air pollution

| Information and Communication Technology

UV-visible spectrometer to monitor air pollution from space

NASA and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory are innovating using spectrometry to improve air quality

Intelsat has completed testing of the operational and data collection system for the first space-based instrument to monitor major air pollutants across North America every daylight hour at high resolution. The new UV-visible spectrometer, operated by Intelsat for NASA and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, will be hosted on a satellite set for launch next month.

Known as TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution), the mission of the instrument is to create a new dataset of atmospheric chemistry measurements from space. TEMPO data will play an important role in scientific studies of phenomena such as rush-hour pollution and the movement of emissions from forest fires and volcanoes. Scientists could eventually apply TEMPO observations to air quality alerts for people in pollution hot spots and those living with health issues.

“We’ve now successfully completed a rigorous schedule of tests to ensure that commands, telemetry and mission data are flowing accurately and at near real-time speed from the satellite through the Intelsat ground system to the Smithsonian and NASA scientists,” said Jean-Luc Froeliger, Intelsat’s Senior VP of Space Systems.

The satellite and instrument will be positioned at 91 West in a geostationary orbit (GEO) about 22,000 miles above Earth’s equator. This vantage point will enable TEMPO to monitor daily variations in ozone, nitrogen dioxide and other key elements of air pollution from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Mexico City and the Yucatan Peninsula to the Canadian oil sands.

TEMPO will also form part of a virtual constellation of air pollution monitors that will give global scientists a big-picture view of air quality around the Northern Hemisphere. South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS) instrument rocketed into space on the Korean Aerospace Research Institute GEO-KOMPSAT-2B satellite. To complete the constellation, the European Space Agency Sentinel-4 satellite will make measurements over Europe and North Africa.

Jonathan Newell
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