A new sensor developed as part of the Copernicus Earth Observation Programme will improve air-pollution monitoring and prediction

New space sensor to track global air-quality

Esa and Airbus will develop a new sensor to improve air-pollution monitoring from space as part of the Copernicus programme.

The Sentinel-5 instrument to be installed aboard the MetOp Second Generation satellite as part of a €144m (£120m) undertaking will measure the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere globally on a daily basis and identify trace gases such as ozone, sulphur dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide.

A formal contract entrusting Airbus Defence and Space with leading the development of the ultraviolet to shortwave-infrared spectrometer has been signed last week.

“The Sentinel-5 instrument will be very important to continue the monitoring of our atmosphere by an operational system,” said Volker Liebig, Director of Earth Observation Programmes at the European Space Agency (Esa).

The instrument will also measure concentrations of aerosols that affect air quality and climate. The readings will not only help to monitor the atmospheric processes but also to differentiate between natural and men-made emissions, providing new insight into how human activity affects air quality, the ozone layer and climate.

The data will also facilitate air-quality predictions, ranging from near real-time, next-day air pollution forecasts to climate forecasts for the coming decades.

The new instrument will be part of the pan-European Copernicus programme designed to enhance environment monitoring from space.

The programme is about to achieve a major milestone this week with the launch of the first dedicated Sentinel-1A satellite scheduled for Thursday, 3 April.

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