Aerospace & Defence

COP28: UK-led climate satellite mission

4th December 2023
Paige West

Two space companies have recently secured major contracts to contribute to a UK-led climate satellite mission, announced during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, UAE.

Airbus UK has been granted nearly £95 million, and Teledyne e2v has received £9 million through the UK Space Agency's membership of the European Space Agency (ESA). These funds will support the next phase of the TRUTHS (Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio- Studies) mission.

Airbus's allocation will focus on satellite design and development, while Teledyne e2v's funds will be directed towards creating the Hyperspectral Imaging Spectrometer Detection System and its associated electronics. This instrument aims to support studies in various fields, including Earth radiation budgets and climate modelling, by measuring ocean and land surfaces.

The TRUTHS mission is set to collect precise measurements of solar energy and light reflected from Earth's surface, which will significantly enhance the understanding of Earth's climate changes and support global mitigation efforts.

Andrew Griffith, Science, Research, and Innovation Minister, commented on the mission's global significance: “This UK-led mission will have a global impact, providing invaluable measurements to improve our understanding of our climate. Thanks to British skills and expertise, this work is generating growth and developing important industrial capabilities across our space sector, driving forward our ambitions to cement the UK's place as a science and technology superpower.”

Planned for a 2030 launch, TRUTHS will establish a 'climate and calibration observatory in space', aiming to reduce uncertainty in Earth observation data and set new benchmarks for detecting climate system changes. This will enhance confidence in climate action by firmly linking space observations to international measurement standards.

Initiated by the UK Space Agency and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, TRUTHS is being developed by ESA. The satellite construction will be led by the UK space industry, headed by Airbus UK, with contributions from European partners, including Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, and the Czech Republic.

Jean Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus, highlighted the mission's potential: “This contract takes us one step closer to building a mission that will enable scientists and climatologists to cross-reference their measurements and data enabling much more accurate forecasts and analysis in a shorter time. TRUTHS will provide the gold standard of calibration for space-based Earth observation – a kind of ‘standards laboratory in space’.”

Antonino Spatola of Teledyne e2v Space Imaging expressed pride in their participation: “We are proud to work with the European Space Agency, the UK Space Agency, and Airbus on the important climate change TRUTHS mission. Our sensor and electronics onboard TRUTHS will be the enabling technology of this space-based metrology laboratory for climate change forecasting and play a key role in giving climate decision-makers confidence in climate data gathered from space. This is also a testament to the capabilities and skills in the UK Space sector and it is important that together our work at Teledyne e2v makes the world a better place for future generations.”

The contracts were announced during the UK Space Agency’s involvement in COP28 in Dubai. The Agency's participation includes hosting events on TRUTHS and international standards for monitoring methane from space. A Space Summit during COP28 is anticipated to lead to a space climate pledge by leading spacefaring nations.

The announcement follows recent developments, including an additional £47 million funding for the Earth observation sector and the UK's planned re-joining of the EU Copernicus programme in January 2024. In November 2022, the UK also committed £314 million to Earth observation as part of its record investment in ESA programmes.

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