A satellite equipped with technology enabling it to monitor effects of climate change on Earth’s surface and atmosphere has been launched into the planet’s orbit this week by Arianespace, a commercial launch service provider.
The launch took place at the company’s French Guiana space station. It was sponsored jointly by the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology and French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).
The mission titled Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New MicroSatellite (Venus) will analyze and compare images of the same area from Earth’s surface at different time intervals, says a press release issued on the occasion by Arianespace. Based on this time-series data, researchers will be able to evaluate soil conditions, understand development of vegetation, and detect outbreak of a disease or the contamination of a field, it adds.
The statement describes Venus as a high-resolution and high-frequency Earth observation satellite equipped with a camera built for the French agency CNES by Elbit Electro-Optic Systems (Elop Ltd). The satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI), was placed into a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 720 km. It weighed 264 kg at the launch and offers a design life of 4.5 years.
The CNES website states that Venus will stay in the orbit for two-and-a-half years. “It will deliver imagery of more than 100 areas of interest in forests, croplands, and nature reserves across the globe. Images will be acquired in 12 spectral bands at high spatial and temporal resolutions (5-10 m every 2 days). No other sensor currently in orbit combines this kind of revisit rate and resolution for keeping track of vegetation. The trade-off is that Venµs does not offer a global monitoring capability,” it says.
The statement hopes that by precisely monitoring plant growth and health status, Venµs will help scientists determine impacts of environmental factors, human activities, and climate change on Earth’s land surface. The satellite may also help global efforts for development of effective early-warning systems focused on plant health and water resources with a view to advancing sustainable land stewardship and food security, the statement notes.
It adds that Venµs’s science mission will be followed by a one-year technology mission in which its altitude will be lowered to 410 km to gauge the performance of a Hall-effect plasma thruster developed by the Israeli Space Agency to counter orbital decay caused by atmospheric drag.