Liftoff in global flight against climate change

Published: 05 March 2024

The MethaneSAT mission has successfully launched into space, marking a milestone in the development of New Zealand’s space sector.

MethaneSAT is a state-of-the-art satellite designed to detect methane emissions with unprecedented accuracy and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.

New Zealand’s role in the mission includes hosting the satellite’s mission operations control centre and leading an atmospheric science programme, studying global emissions from agriculture. The New Zealand Space Agency at MBIE is co-ordinating New Zealand’s participation in the mission.

Hosting and operating the MethaneSAT mission operations control centre adds a significant piece of infrastructure to our space ecosystem and will develop New Zealand’s capability to operate complex space missions in future.

The centre has been developed by Rocket Lab, which will oversee mission operations before long-term responsibility for this is transferred to the University of Auckland’s Te Pūnaha Ātea Space Institute.

Te Pūnaha Ātea Space Institute(external link) — University of Auckland

Having the mission operations control centre based at the University enhances the teaching and learning opportunities from the mission.

MethaneSAT also puts New Zealand researchers at the forefront of work to detect and measure agricultural methane emissions from space.

Unlike oil and gas emissions, global understanding of how space technology could be used to detect and measure methane from agriculture is at a very early stage. The New Zealand science programme, led by NIWA Principal Scientist Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher, will explore how ground-based data about agricultural methane emissions could be complemented and consolidated through remote satellite sensing.

MethaneSAT: detecting and quantifying methane emissions by satellite(external link) — NIWA

MethaneSAT is a global initiative led by the United States’ Environmental Defense Fund and is primarily focused on methane leaks from oil and gas production around the world. MethaneSAT detects and measures methane emissions with unparalleled precision — including emissions that other satellites can’t see.

Environmental Defense Fund website(external link)

The satellite was launched on a SpaceX flight from Vandenburg Space Force Base in California on 5 March 2024 (NZ). The satellite is expected to start sending operational data to Earth by mid-2024.

Find out more about the MethaneSAT partners and their role in the mission:

MethaneSAT(external link)

Environmental Defense Fund(external link)

MethaneSAT: detecting and quantifying methane emissions by satellite(external link) — NIWA

Rocket Lab(external link)

University of Auckland’s Te Pūnaha Ātea Space Institute(external link)

MBIE media contact