Dutch space instrument plays a key role in climate research

In the media | February 6, 2024

Source: Nu.nl – Jeroen Kraan

Pace Satellite From NASA
Pace Satellite From NASA

Today, Tuesday February 6, an important event attracts the world's attention: the launch of a new climate satellite by NASA, equipped with a revolutionary Dutch instrument called SPEXone. This instrument is the result of a collaboration between the Dutch space institute SRON, Airbus and TNO and is about to shed new light on one of the biggest climate issues of our time.

SPEXone, the size of a large shoebox, is designed to make precise measurements of aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere. These tiny particles, originating from air pollution from aircraft, factories and forest fires, play a crucial role in the climate system through their potential cooling effect. This effect can counteract global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The launch of SPEXone is a milestone in climate research. The instrument will collect vital data on the composition and impact of aerosols, giving scientists a better understanding of their influence on the climate. This is critical given the current uncertainties surrounding the exact effects of aerosols on global temperatures, which estimates range from a minimum to as much as 1 degree Celsius.

SRON, as a member of the Innovative Cluster Drachten (ICD), plays a pioneering role in this international project. SRON's involvement underlines the expertise and innovative capacity of Dutch research institutions in the field of space research and climate science. It illustrates how Dutch technology and science contribute to solving global issues.

Space Instrument Spexone
Space Instrument Spexone
Photo: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

The development of SPEXone, a process that took place amid the challenges of the corona pandemic, is a testament to the dedication and craftsmanship of the researchers and engineers involved. The instrument, described as “almost a work of art” by Aaldert van Amerongen of SRON, marks a significant advance in the precision of climate measurements from space.

In addition to aerosols, the satellite will also investigate clouds and oceans, providing a more complete picture of Earth's climate system. This integrated approach will contribute to a better understanding of the complex interactions within our climate, essential for developing effective climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The launch of SPEXone is not only a technological achievement but also a symbolic moment, reflecting the hopes and expectations of the scientific community. The project embodies collaboration between countries and disciplines, aimed at unraveling the mysteries of our climate. For SRON and the ICD, this is testament to their leading role in advancing knowledge and technology for a more sustainable world.

In the coming years, the data collected by SPEXone will be crucial in refining our climate models and improving our predictions. This project emphasizes the importance of international cooperation and innovation in the fight against climate change. It is an inspiring example of how science and technology can work together to tackle the biggest challenges of our time.