METHANESAT (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     6th March 2024        

Context: Recently, Methanesat, a satellite about the size of a washing machine designed to track and measure methane emissions worldwide, was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket from California.


  • About: It is a satellite project initiated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a US-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group.
  • Collaboration: The satellite development involves partnerships with Harvard University, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the New Zealand Space Agency.
  • Orbit and Frequency: MethaneSAT will orbit the Earth 15 times a day, focusing on monitoring the oil and gas sector.
  • Data Objective: The primary goal is to collect data on methane emissions, determining their sources, responsibility, and trends over time.
  • Real-time Accessibility: The data collected by MethaneSAT will be made public and available for free in near real-time.
  • Impact: Public access enables stakeholders and regulators to promptly address and mitigate methane emissions.
  • Features 

oSensor Technology: MethaneSAT is equipped with a high-resolution infrared sensor and a spectrometer.

oResolution Capability: It can detect methane concentrations as small as three parts per billion, addressing the limitations of previous satellites.

oIdentification of "Super Emitters": The satellite can identify significant emitters, referred to as "super emitters," contributing to a comprehensive understanding of methane sources.

Methane Emissions

  • Status: Methane ranks as the second most prevalent greenhouse gas following carbon dioxide, with its atmospheric concentration more than doubling in recent centuries.
  • Contribution to Climate Change: Methane's increased concentration is accountable for approximately 30% of climate warming since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. It possesses about 80 times the warming potency of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, as per the UN Environment Programme.
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