ESA's Earth Explorer satellite missions are scientific satellite missions that aim to improve our understanding of Earth system processes and dynamics. These missions focus on specific aspects of Earth's environment and climate system.
To date ten Earth Explorer (EE) research missions have been approved for development. Two of these, GOCE and Aeolus, have already completed their missions, while SMOS, CryoSat, and Swarm are currently in operation. EE6 EarthCARE and EE7 Biomass are set to launch soon, while EE8 FLEX, EE9 FORUM and EE10 Harmony in development.
Meanwhile, there are four candidates currently competing to become the ESA’s EE11 mission: CAIRT, Nitrosat, Seastar, and WIVERN.
The EE11 UCM event which will be held on 10-11 October 2023 in Bucharest, Romania, is planned to support the selection of up to two out of these four missions to enter Phase A.
In this UCM, these four candidate Earth Explorer mission concepts will presented to the Earth observation scientific community by their respective scientific and technical teams. UCM participants will have the opportunity to learn about each mission concept and to ask questions and to provide critical feedback on each mission. The presentations and feedback provide input to the recommendation and decision-making process that will ultimately lead to the selection up to two mission candidates to proceed to the next stage of preparation.
Each of these innovative missions aim to provide valuable insights into various aspects of our Earth system. A brief introduction to each candidate mission is provided below:
- CAIRT, seeks to unravel the intricate connections between circulation and composition throughout the middle atmosphere, and the role they play in climate forcing and feedbacks. By tomographic imaging of many atmospheric trace gases and wave imprints at unprecedented spatial resolution, CAIRT will enhance our understanding of global atmospheric dynamics, chemistry, and transport of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances. The mission will further explore the coupling of our atmosphere with space weather and help to constrain climate impacts by stratospheric aerosols.
- Nitrosat, aims at detecting and characterizing individual sources of reactive nitrogen from farms, industrial complexes, transport, fires and urban areas. To this end, the signatures in atmospheric abundances of the NH3 and NO2 are mapped at sub-kilometer scale using imaging spectrometers covering visible and infrared spectral ranges. Nitrosat will enable urgently needed research on key processes of the nitrogen cycle and provide an informed basis for nitrogen management.
- Seastar aims at observing small-scale ocean dynamics at an unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution in coastal areas, shelf seas and the marginal ice zone. Through advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) techniques, Seastar will provide high resolution measurements of total surface currents, wind vectors and waves, to study air-sea interactions, water pathways, vertical mixing and marine productivity.
- WIVERN, delivers the first space-based observations of in-cloud winds and will complement the winds in clear air and thin clouds from the Aeolus follow-on mission in the 2030 timeframe. Equipped with its conically scanning 94GHz Doppler radar, and its broad swath of width 800 km, WIVERN is designed to provide a global coverage of winds up to +/- 80 degrees latitude every 1.5 days. These observations are expected to have a significant positive impact on Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) forecasts, as demonstrated by the successful deployment of the first Aeolus mission, which showed one of the largest reductions in global NWP errors among all individual satellite instruments. Moreover, WIVERN will extend and continue the observations of CloudSat and EarthCARE radar reflectivities for cloud and precipitation profiling.
These four candidate missions represent groundbreaking opportunities to advance our understanding of Earth system processes. You are encouraged to join this User Consultation Meeting in Bucharest to learn more about these ground-breaking Earth Explorer candidate missions, and to engage in discussions which contribute to the down-selection decision.
The Earth Explorer 11 User Consultation Meeting will take place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bucharest, Romania.
Registration for the Earth Explorer 11 User Consultation Meeting is now open, and registration is free of charge. The deadline to register is 25 September 2023.