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Scottish universities secure part of multi-million funding for cutting-edge satellite technology

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The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has allocated multi-million funding to research on how space can help fight climate change.

The investment will support an early-stage programme looking to enhance the UK’s Earth observation technologies.

Delivered by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), the projects will enhance the ability to monitor the planet’s atmosphere and measure emissions including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen dioxide.

The University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde are amongst those to receive a share of the £9m.

Beth Greenaway, head of earth observation and climate at UKSA, said: “Satellites play a vital role in monitoring emissions, weather patterns and other environmental factors using a variety of sensors and instruments that return information to Earth. Indeed, some of the information can only be collected from space.”

It is hoped the satellite instruments will provide a clearer picture of where activities and incidents producing high emissions are happening, allowing for decision-makers to better coordinate responses.

Currently, carbon dioxide accounts for more than three quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The Edinburgh institution will receive £1.7m to build a high spatial resolution near-infrared camera to discover the smallest leaks of methane to date. The grant will focus on an airborne demonstration, the satellite mission and space-relevant environment testing. 

Allocated £65,000, Strathclyde University aims to bring together two types of magnetometers into one instrument. It is claimed this new tool will cut costs, improve data accuracy and hold a range of applications for areas including space weather and Earth observation. The team will first work to analyse orbit and noise requirements, magnetometer architecture, investigate the engineering implications and produce a feasibility assessment.

Other institutions and firms to have secured funding include the University of Leeds and Leonardo UK.

UK Space Minister Andrew Griffith claimed this investment will cement the UK’s leadership in Earth observation and “attract more private investment” into the sector.

A further £2m in funding from the academic and private sectors will be added onto the CEIO pot. 

Nicolas Leveque, director of the CEOI, said: “This additional funding from the UK Space Agency demonstrates its continued support for the development of high-end remote-sensing technologies. These technologies will fill many gaps in our observing capabilities and help better understand some of the more complex processes driving the Earth climate and environment. This funding round will act as an accelerator, bringing the launch of new instruments forward by several years.”

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