June 13, 2024

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What will ESA’s EarthCARE satellite achieve?

What will ESA’s EarthCARE satellite achieve?

On 29 May 2024, at 00:20 Dutch time, the European Space Agency (ESA) EarthCARE climate satellite will be ready for launch in thirty years. The satellite will be launched into space from Vandenberg, California, on a Falcon 9 rocket. Less than an hour later comes the redemptive word: EarthCARE has been safely placed in orbit.

There, EarthCARE, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency JAXA, will answer an important question about climate: What impact do clouds and particles have on climate change?

Dutch contribution

Not everything went smoothly during EarthCARE’s development. It has been a huge challenge to operate the advanced measurement technologies, but construction has also been halted for a while due to earthquakes in Japan, the coronavirus pandemic, and a fire in storage areas.

When the satellite was finally ready for testing, EarthCARE was transferred to the European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk. But this was not the only Dutch contribution to the climate satellite: Airbus Netherlands contributed solar panels and the research institute TNO developed the optical camera for one of the four measuring instruments.

What will Earth Care do?

In the spring of 2024, the American climate satellite Pace, together with the Dutch measuring instrument SpexOne, will go into space for the same purpose as EarthCARE. However, SpexOne mainly looks at cloud formation, while EarthCARE uses four different scientific instruments to see how cloud formation changes with altitude.

Clouds affect the balance between the thermal radiation that comes from the Sun and the heat that the Earth itself radiates into space. They do this by reflecting incoming sunlight back into space or by retaining escaping heat. The particles also scatter or absorb sunlight and affect cloud formation and properties.

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EarthCARE should provide more clarity about the interaction between clouds, particles and thermal radiation. In this way, researchers hope to create better climate models and better monitor and predict climate change. Another advantage: Thanks to EarthCARE, weather forecasts will become more accurate.

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Esme van Dijk is the editor of National Geographic, Historia, and Traveler. Because of her love for history and culture, she prefers to travel around the world both physically and mentally. At the top of her wish list is a tour of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, where she hopes to finally see her favorite artists in real life.