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ABB sensor onboard SpaceX rocket to detect greenhouse gas emissions

Jan. 25, 2021
An optical sensor manufactured by ABB was deployed with the successful launch of satellite Hugo from GHGSat

The ABB supplied optical sensor can map methane emissions from space at a resolution that is 100 times higher than any other sensors. Whilst previously only larger regions could be surveyed, for the first time the new greater granularity now allows the identification of the source of emissions. An additional nine units are currently under manufacture at ABB to be launched by the end of 2022 ready to be on-board across the first private satellite constellation dedicated to emission measurement.

Space offers the ideal location to freely monitor emissions across jurisdictions and quantitatively report on improvements. The ABB sensors will provide valuable insights which will enable governments and industries around the world to meet their emission reduction targets and reduce the negative impact on climate change.

"We selected ABB for its ability to deliver world-class instruments while meeting the challenges of a new space company like ours," says Stephane Germain, CEO of GHGSat. "We strive to innovate for the needs of the future, and we’re excited to work with ABB to achieve that."

Marc Corriveau, general manager ABB Measurement & Analytics Canada, adds: “ABB shares GHGSat’s goal of reducing emissions through the creation of their greenhouse gas sensing constellation. Our selection as the manufacturer for these advanced sensors demonstrates our competitiveness and strong fit with the private space sector requirements.” 

“The space revolution is well underway, and ABB, with its heritage of unique space instruments and serial production of advanced measurement sensors for industrial applications, is extremely well positioned to serve this emerging sector,” he continues. 

GHGSat announced the constellation contract award with ABB in October 2020, with first deliveries in 2021. The unit launched by SpaceX was a single unit procured by GHGSat from ABB two years ago, ahead of a selection for the constellation. 

With its involvement in the Canadian SCISAT mission and the Japanese GOSAT series of satellites, ABB has been at the forefront of the field of greenhouse gas sensing from space for more than two decades. ABB optical equipment already in space cumulates more than 100 years of reliable operation. The SCISAT sensor tracks long-term subtle composition changes in the earth's atmosphere down to parts per trillion of more than 70 molecules and pollutants since 2003. Weather agencies across the world base their predictions on ABB equipment flying onboard the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellites (NPP and JPSS), which saves lives by improving the timeliness and accuracy of weather forecasts for as many as seven days. 

ABB is also a global leader in earthbound continuous emission monitoring with more than 60,000 systems installed in more than 50 countries worldwide. Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) continuously record and evaluate emission data across all industries. They provide important information for the environmental and economic operation of production facilities. The range includes the ACF5000 that accurately and reliably monitors as many as 15 gas components simultaneously.

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