National Physical Laboratory space mission to track climate change

national physical laboratory
© iStock/titoOnz

A space mission from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has been added to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) proposal programme.

The National Physical Laboratory developed the Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio- Studies (TRUTHS), a proposed ‘climate and calibration laboratory in space’, as a means of gauging trends in climate change through observations of the Earth from space.

Nigel Fox, Science Lead for the Earth Observation, Climate and Optical group of the National Physical Laboratory and the mission’s primary investigator, said: “Enabling society to have access to the trustable data and information it needs to make informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation resulting from climate change lies at the heart of NPL’s strategy, along with responsibilities for the nation’s time and other measurements, [for example] mass and the kilogram. TRUTHS will allow us to take NPL into orbit, mimicking in space what we do in our Teddington laboratories; delivering a tenfold improvement in measurement uncertainty not only for TRUTHS’ data but that of the world’s Earth observing system as a whole.”

The ESA has added the TRUTHS mission to its programme of proposals to be delivered to the Space19+ meeting in November 2019, where representatives of ESA Member States meet to decide future policy and funding priorities for space programmes.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes Josef Aschbacher said: “ESA is happy to include the TRUTHS mission in our package of programme proposals for Space19+. It is a very interesting mission that will bring many benefits to better understand climate change and provide well-calibrated measurements for cross-reference with other missions. It is now up to ESA Member States to take up this offer and participate in this exciting programme.”

Chris Skidmore, the UK’s Science Minister and interim Minister for Climate Change, said: “Space technologies and satellite applications are key green technologies that allow us to observe the Earth and record changes to our climate. This new mission will allow scientists to more accurately calculate the energy absorbed and reflected by the Earth over a much shorter timescale than is currently possible. The UK Government is determined to be a world leader on climate change by supporting cutting-edge research and the space sector through our modern Industrial Strategy. We’ve made clear our desire to host the critical COP26 climate conference in 2020; and announcements such as these demonstrate our commitment to tackling climate change.”


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