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Tue, 16 May 2006

Detection of greenhouse gas from space – UK team leads the world

Monitoring and detecting greenhouses gases is of critical importance to the future of the planet. While there are some conflicting reports that attempt to quantify the rate of climatic change, one fact that the scientific community do seem to agree on is that greenhouse gases are adversely influencing our environment today and will continue to do so in the future. The Kyoto protocol requires such harmful gases to be monitored, therefore the European Space Agency (ESA) have awarded an important contract to a UK team lead by space experts Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd (SSTL) to provide a solution to this global problem.

The impact of climate change on the global environment is currently attracting significant global coverage. The key question requiring an answer is how human activity affects the surrounding environment is a subject generating significant debate from both “pro” and “anti” lobbies. A number of inter-governmental treaties have been signed (including Kyoto) which attempt to limit the amount of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, O3) produced around the globe. Careful monitoring of greenhouse gases is essential if we are to understand fully the impact of these elevated levels on our environment. The key gases are CO2 (carbon dioxide) and CH4 (methane), which have the biggest impact on the Earth’s atmosphere.

Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased dramatically in the last 50 years to levels currently (2005) exceeding 370 ppm. This alarming trend is thought to be a significant factor in global warming.

ESA is considering using a LIDAR instrument to monitor the levels of CO2 within the atmosphere. The most effective wavelength to detect CO2 is at 2 µm due to its deep absorption signature at this wavelength.

SSTL has been awarded a contract from ESA to develop a new detector to address this spectral region. SSTL will prime the activity with Sheffield and Heriot Watt Universities and Lidar Technologies Ltd as subcontractors. The total contract value is €400k and will be undertaken in 18 months.

About Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited is an enterprise company formed in 1985 by the University of Surrey to commercialise the results of its innovative small satellite engineering research. SSTL was the first professional organisation to offer low-cost small satellites with rapid response employing advanced terrestrial technologies. Over two decades, we have built a profitable business around our unique approach to space.

Today, SSTL employs over 200 staff and has been involved in 23 small satellite missions, making it the most successful and experienced small satellite supplier in the world.

Press Contact:

Stephen Ballard

Ballard Communications Management (BCM)

Tel: 01306 882288