Pollution in the streets of Singapore

UK space project to tackle air pollution in Singapore

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The UK Space Agency has provided funding for a new Earth observation mission that aims to better measure climate change and inform disaster response in Singapore.

The Space South Central project will focus on monitoring air pollution and atmospheric weather forecasting in Singapore. 

The initiative will be led by the University of Surrey, which will work with Singaporean researchers to develop instrumentation that can obtain data from very low Earth orbit and broaden understanding of the challenges and impact presented by climate change.

Global climate change is a national priority for Singapore. The nation is often impacted by high levels of air pollution, particularly when wildfires in neighbouring countries cause haze. In addition, Singapore’s growing population and economy are putting pressure on the water supply, which is vulnerable to climate change.  

The University of Surrey’s Dr William Lovegrove said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded this project by the UK Space Agency and are excited at the prospect of further deeper collaboration with our partners in Singapore. This project – developing critical instrumentation for climate change monitoring – encompasses so much of the newly-announced National Space Strategy by unlocking growth through international collaboration.

“By combining our expertise and resources, we anticipate creating a new scientific satellite mission that not only addresses global challenges, but also fosters stronger ties between our nations in the context of this significant trade agreement.” 

The Space South Central project is worth nearly £75,000 and secured funding from the UK Space Agency’s International Bilateral Fund.

The project is expected to incorporate electronic propulsion technology, onboard AI processing technology, sensors enabled by quantum technology and miniaturised timing mechanisms. These will form a very-low-Earth-orbit constellation to contribute to the sustainable use of space and address critical environmental issues such as air pollution and weather forecasting.

Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Projects such as Surrey’s work with Singapore to advance sustainability and scientific sensors highlight the many ways in which we can collaborate with the global space community to help humanity push the boundaries of space innovation and unlock commercial opportunities that will benefit our economy now and in the future.”

Dr Chris Bridges, principal investigator for the project, said: “The cluster team has been working closely with experts in Singapore to understand what’s needed to help the island country cope with climate change. The cutting-edge and disruptive technologies emerging from the Universities of Surrey, Portsmouth and Southampton are combining to solve problems.” 

In March, a study at Monash University in Australia found that only 0.18 per cent of the global land area and 0.001 per cent of the global population are exposed to levels of PM2.5 below that recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Moreover, a different study has been able to link almost half a million premature deaths in 2018 to antibiotic resistance potentially resulting from air pollution, costing global economies an additional $395bn. North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia were said to have the highest levels of antibiotic resistance.

Singapore’s air quality target by 2020 was to bring the PM10 level below 20 grams per cubic meter in the annual mean. However, in 2022, the pollution of particular matter in Singapore increased by three points to 24 micrograms per cubic meter, according to Statista.

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