The date has been set for the Earth observation science community to meet and discuss the merits and express their views of the FLEX and CarbonSat mission concepts before one is finally selected to be built as ESA’s next Earth Explorer satellite.
Both mission concepts have been going through rigorous feasibility studies since the end of 2010, now culminating in a User Consultation Meeting on 15–16 September in Krakow, Poland.
Harnessing Europe’s technological excellence, ESA’s family of Earth Explorer missions is designed to exploit new ways of observing Earth from space to improve our understanding of how our planet works as a system, as well as a better appreciation of the impact human activity is having on the natural world.
Earth Explorers are defined, developed and operated in close cooperation with the scientific community so that pressing Earth-science questions are addressed as effectively as possible.
The September meeting is, therefore, integral to the user-driven approach for developing these state-of-the-art satellite missions.
In this round, Fluorescence Explorer (FLEX) and CarbonSat aim to provide key information on different aspects of the carbon cycle.
The CarbonSat mission aims to quantify and monitor the distribution of two of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: carbon dioxide and methane. Data from the mission would lead to a better understanding of the sources and sinks of these two gases and how they are linked to climate change.
The FLEX mission aims to provide global maps of vegetation fluorescence, which can be converted into an indicator of photosynthetic activity. These data would improve our understanding of how much carbon is stored in plants and their role in the carbon and water cycles.
In preparation for the selection, reports presenting the scientific and technical ambition of each mission are being prepared.
Following consultation with the scientific community in September, the Earth Science Advisory Committee will provide their recommendations before ESA ultimately makes the decision as to which is to become the eighth Earth Explorer.
Details on how to register for the Earth Explorer User Consultation Meeting will be announced on the ESA Earth observation website in due course.