ESA To Debate Earth Explorer Satellites At March Meeting
January 21, 2013

Three Earth Explorer Satellites Up For Debate At ESA Meeting In March

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

In the next few months, scientists from across Europe will be gathering together to try and choose the European Space Agency's next Earth Explorer mission.

The series of Earth Explorer satellites are designed to advance science by exploring different aspects of Earth. The missions are helping scientists improve their understanding of the interactions between Earth's different components, and how human activity is affecting natural processes.

Three missions have already been selected, and are in orbit, and another three are on the road to launch. The next User Consultation Meeting, where scientists will be scrutinizing three innovative satellite concepts, is set for March 5 - 6.

During this meeting, the scientific community will be debating the merits of three new mission concepts, each of which could deliver novel information about the planet.

These state-of-the-art missions aim to help address some of the most urgent Earth science questions of the time.

ESA said the Swarm magnetic field mission is set to be launched this year, followed by the ADM-Aeolus and EarthCARE missions. Currently, GOCE gravity mission, the SMOS water mission, and CryoSat ice mission are making contributions to science as a result of the program.

The three concepts due to be discussed during the event include Biomass, CoReH2O, and PREMIER. These missions have already undergone extensive feasibility studies to demonstrate their value to science, and technological viability.

The Biomass mission aims to improve estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes through measurements of forest biomass, and understand how they change over time.

Ultimately, data from this mission helps to reduce the uncertainty in the distribution and dynamics of forests.

CoReH2O aims to help fill the gaps in current information on snow, glaciers and surface water. This mission will improve the modeling and prediction of water balance and streamflow for snow-covered and glaciered basins, the modeling of water and energy cycles in high latitudes, and the forecasting of water supply from snow cover and glaciers.

ESA said the goal of the PREMIER mission is to advance the understanding of processes that link trace gases, radiation and chemistry in the upper troposphere, and lower stratosphere. The radiative effects of water and clouds are at a maximum in this region, and the area is also characterized by small-scale processes that have not been studied.

The meeting will provide opportunities for the science community to put up their views on the missions, which will be considered by ESA's Earth Science Advisory Committee before recommending which mission should be selected.