MethaneSAT space mission
As part of the global effort to combat climate change, MBIE is participating in the MethaneSAT space mission. It’s New Zealand’s first government-funded space mission.
About the MethaneSAT space mission
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to the amount of warming that we are experiencing. New Zealand is participating in the MethaneSAT space mission as part of the global effort to combat climate change.
MethaneSAT is a state-of-the-art satellite designed to detect global methane emissions with unprecedented accuracy. The MethaneSAT satellite is unique because it can measure over a large area and focus on specific targets.
MethaneSAT LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), is building the satellite. They intend to use the data generated by the satellite to catalyse a reduction in methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure by at least 45 percent by 2025. In addition to oil and gas, MethaneSAT also has the potential to assess emissions from a range of anthropogenic methane sources, including agriculture.
In 2019, MBIE signed an agreement with MethaneSAT LLC and EDF to collaborate on the mission.
“New Zealand has been an early and essential partner in the MethaneSAT journey, bringing strong scientific and technical capabilities to the project and allowing us to integrate agricultural emissions into the mission.” The New Zealand government investment in MethaneSAT will help us achieve our goal to find and quantify methane emissions worldwide, and track reductions in emissions of this powerful greenhouse pollutant. We value the enthusiasm and insight that New Zealand brings to this project.”
-- Dr. Steven Hamburg
Project Co-lead, MethaneSAT and Chief Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund
This investment will build important capability in our space sector, enable New Zealand researchers to work with world-leading atmospheric scientists, and make an important contribution to slowing global warming.
We are making 2 main contributions to the MethaneSAT mission:
- An Atmospheric science programme, funded from Catalyst: Strategic over 4 years.
- The Mission Operations Control Centre, funded from the Strategic Science Investment Fund.
The funds for this investment were made available through reprioritisation of funding across the Research, Science and Innovation portfolio.
Atmospheric science programme
Catalyst: Strategic is funding a project that will use the MethaneSAT satellite to demonstrate the potential to use satellites to accurately measure methane emissions from agriculture, both in New Zealand, and around the world. This multi-institution, multi-disciplinary team of Aotearoa’s leading researchers in atmospheric science and remote sensing. This team will be led by Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher of NIWA.
In addition to the agricultural methane emissions research, the New Zealand science team will work with international researchers from the University of Harvard and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory who are leading the MethaneSAT mission’s science on emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Mission Operations Control Centre (MOCC)
The Mission Operations Control Centre (MOCC) will be hosted by University of Auckland’s Te Pūnaha Ātea-Auckland Space Institute.
The MOCC is a physical facility that provide a set of functional capabilities for the monitoring, control and support of the satellite.
Te Pūnaha Ātea-Auckland Space Institute was chosen as the permanent host after a call for proposals where they demonstrated that they:
- have a track record and reputation of successfully delivering enduring infrastructure programmes.
- have cohesive set of educational offerings in relevant areas (such as climate science), and a strategy for using the MOCC to support and build on existing educational programmes.
- are committed to creating an enduring national capability for the benefit for New Zealand science sector.
- have the ability to work collaboratively with both domestic and international partners.
Rocket Lab will initially establish and operate the MOCC, for approximately the first 12 months after the satellite is successfully in orbit. University of Auckland’s Te Pūnaha Ātea-Auckland Space Institute will then take over the hosting of the MOCC. Rocket Lab will work closely with the University of Auckland during the transition, and will provide post-handover consultation to the university if required.
World Space Week 2020 MethaneSAT interview
Dr Peter Crabtree, Head of the NZ Space Agency, Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher, Lead Researcher for the mission and Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist, EDF, talk with Haritina Mogosanu, Executive Director, NZ Astrobiology Network about MethaneSAT, during World Space Week 2020.