NZ-assisted satellite to measure methane and carbon emissions from space

The AM Show 07/11/2019

An international mission to find and measure methane emissions from space is being described as a huge step for New Zealand.

The Government is pouring $26 million into the project, which is due to launch in 2022.

Auckland University physics professor Richard Easther says it's a new frontier for the country.

"It's an opportunity for New Zealand to contribute to understanding the global climate system, but it's also a way... to grow our engagement with space technology."

The Government hopes to use the data to measure methane from the agriculture industry as well as emissions data from the oil and gas industry.

The location of the mission control centre is yet to be announced. The state-of-the-art MethaneSAT satellite is scheduled to launch in 2022. It's New Zealand's first official space mission as a country.

"MethaneSat is the most exciting greenhouse gas detecting satellite planned in the near future, because it has tremendous potential to directly support emissions reductions," said NIWA scientist Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher.

"The high-resolution maps available through MethaneSat will complement our surface measurements, which are more sensitive to emissions at the surface and have more information about methane changes with time compared to the satellite data... Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, so there are significant immediate climate benefits to reducing methane emissions."

Dr Easther says outside of Rocket Lab, this is the beginning of New Zealand's space programme.

"It allows us to make a fundamental contribution to the dataset used by climate scientists and policymakers worldwide."

The AM Show / Newshub reporters Dan Satherley & Lydia Lewis