A Small Satellite with Big Ambitions
GHGSat’s first satellite GHGSat-D, nicknamed “Claire”, was successfully launched at 23:56 EDT on 21 June 2016, and reached its planned orbit less than 30 minutes later. GHGSat commissioned Claire within one month of launch, and initial images were released in the Fall of 2016.
CLAIRE orbits the Earth approximately 15 times per day, performing several different types of measurements:
- Infrared image of customer site
- One-time concentration map of customer site (provided with abundance dataset)
- Full-year monitoring, including emissions rate estimates
CLAIRE was developed, built and tested over two years. The image below was taken during vibration testing ahead of launch, showing CLAIRE in her deployment mechanism.
How does CLAIRE work? Gases absorb light at specific wavelengths, creating a “spectral fingerprint” for each gas. Our satellite finds those fingerprints using sunlight, and measures the brightness of those fingerprints to determine how much of each gas is present in the field of view of the satellite. CLAIRE measures two gas fingerprints – carbon dioxide and methane – the two most significant greenhouse gases.
The satellite orbits the Earth non-stop, every day, taking measurements from industrial sites anywhere in the world. For example, it measures oil wells in Texas, oil sands in Canada, power plants in Europe, coal mines in China, and even rice paddies in Vietnam. The output of those measurements includes imagery and data products, as simulated for a hydroelectric power plant in South America below.
The image above shows concentrations of methane (CH4) in a plume carried downwind from an aerating weir at a hydroelectric dam.
Industrial site operators can use CLAIRE’s measurements to better understand their greenhouse gas emissions, enabling them to control and ultimately reduce them. For example, CLAIRE can help coal mine and landfill operators find significant leaks of methane, then measure those leaks to justify a business case for gas-fired electricity generation.
- Claire is the size of a microwave oven.
- Claire orbits the Earth every 90 minutes or so, travelling at over 7 km per second
- Claire measures two greenhouses gases – carbon dioxide and methane – which together represent over 90% of all GHG emissions worldwide
- GHGSat is initially using Claire to help industrial emitters in sectors such as oil & gas, power generation, mining, waste management and agriculture – which together represent over 50% of all GHG emissions worldwide
- Claire is expected to operate for 5 years; the satellite will burn-up in the atmosphere after its mission is complete
- Claire alone has sufficient capacity to measure over 1,000 sites per year; GHGSat is already sufficiently confident in Claire’s performance to have ordered two follow-on satellites, and will ultimately offer services for hundreds of thousands of industrial sites around the world.
- Many GHGSat customers are motivated by the cost of GHG emissions from their industrial facilities. The World Bank reports that the Carbon Market (carbon trading, taxes and credits) is worth over $50B today, and growing. Assigning a value to each ton of GHG emissions creates a financial motivation for industrial emitters to manage their financial risk by understanding, controlling and reducing their emissions.
- GHGSat’s industry team for building Claire has operations in Montreal and Toronto
- GHGSat is licensed to operate Claire by the Government of Canada
The underlying science for these measurements has been proven by NASA and other national agencies over the last 30 years. We have simply invented a new type of sensor that can make these measurements from a small satellite. High-level specifications:
- CLAIRE measures carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) abundances in a field of view of approximately 12 km x 12 km and spatial resolution of less than 50m.
- The satellite payload includes two sensors to arrive at such measurements: (i) a 2D Wide-Angle Fabry-Perot (“WAF-P”) imaging spectrometer, and (ii) a Clouds & Aerosols (“C&A”) sensor.
- The WAF-P measures vertical column densities of CO2 and CH4.
- The C&A measures interference from clouds and aerosols in the field of view of the WAF-P.
- The WAF-P spectral range is in the short-wave infrared (SWIR) at 1600-1700 nm, with multiple bands in a proprietary configuration.
- The C&A spectral range is in the visible and near-infrared (VNIR) at 400-1000 nm, with 325 bands at 1.9 nm spectral resolution.
- CLAIRE has a primary body measuring 20x20x42cm with an additional 7x18x42cm mezzanine on one side. The mass of CLAIRE, payload included, is < 15 kg.
- CLAIRE’s orbit is sun-synchronous at an altitude of approximately 500 km, resulting in a site revisit period of approximately 14 days
- CLAIRE’s ITU designation is “GHGSat-D”
- Emissions analyses require weather information from demonstration sites, but we can generate a first estimate using publicly-available data. CLAIRE therefore does not require in-situ equipment for measurement of abundances or for emissions estimates. That being said, we welcome the collaboration of operators of demonstration sites with any in-situ weather and emissions data available.
Prior to launch, CLAIRE was rigorously tested in accordance with industry best practices, to maximize chances of mission success. Tests were performed at component, subsystem and system levels – including functional tests demonstrating end-to-end system performance. The images below are from CLAIRE’s final trip to the thermal vacuum chamber before launch.