Maxar Chosen By NASA To Integrate Pollution Monitoring Payload On An Upcoming Commercial Satellite

An artist’s impression of TEMPO on Maxar’s 1300-class satellite platform. Image Credit: Maxar

July 26, 2019 – Maxar Technologies of Westminster, Colorado, will provide satellite integration, launch and data transmission services for NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO), an Earth science instrument that will observe air pollution over North America in unprecedented detail.

TEMPO is a UV-visible spectrometer that will observe Earth from a geostationary vantage point about 22,000 miles above Earth’s equator. TEMPO will make hourly measurements of atmospheric gases — including ozone, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde as well as aerosols — by measuring sunlight reflected and scattered from Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The resulting data from TEMPO will be used to enhance air quality forecasts in North America, enabling more effective early public warning of pollution incidents.

“Maxar has more than half a century of experience developing and operating satellites and advanced infrastructure to unlock the promise of space for customers around the world. We have a long history of building meteorological spacecraft and instruments, including eight Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Program (GOES) satellites for NASA,” said Megan Fitzgerald, Maxar’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Space Solutions. “We’re proud to collaborate with NASA on TEMPO, which will provide critical insights on air pollution to enable impactful solutions for a better world.”

Maxar previously completed a study to accommodate TEMPO on a commercial GEO satellite. Building on the successful completion of the study, Maxar has been selected to integrate and fly the TEMPO payload. The instrument is currently slated for launch by 2022.

The contract with Maxar was awarded by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center through its Hosted Payload Solutions contract, a procurement mechanism that provides a pool of qualified vendors that meet the government’s needs for various hosted payload space missions at a cost savings to the government. 

“Finding the right commercial partner to integrate our payload was of utmost importance to us, and Maxar’s strong legacy in bridging commercial and government needs made it the perfect candidate. TEMPO will revolutionize the way NASA samples and analyzes critical air quality measurements,” said Kelly Chance, Principal Investigator, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. “Critical partners in the analyses of TEMPO data include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), plus U.S. universities and foreign partners, including Mexico and Canada.”

While ozone is a major protector of life on Earth and filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation, it is also a greenhouse gas and air pollutant. TEMPO’s new stream of data will provide near-real-time air quality products that will be made publicly available and will help improve air quality forecasting. TEMPO will also enable researchers to improve pollution emission inventories, monitor population exposure, and evaluate effective emission-control strategies.

The TEMPO instrument project is led by Principal Investigator Kelly Chance, from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The instrument was developed by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, and is in storage awaiting shipment to Maxar’s satellite manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California.

“With the TEMPO instrument fully spaceflight qualified and safely delivered, we are excited about this important step and look forward to working closely with Maxar for the successful deployment of TEMPO,” said Stephen Hall, TEMPO project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

TEMPO will contribute to a global air-quality monitoring constellation that will include similar satellites: the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-4, currently in development, and South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer, scheduled to launch in early 2020.

The instrument’s international science team includes partners in North America, Asia and Europe, and is led by Chance and Deputy Principal Investigator Xiong Liu, also from SAO. Scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration play key roles in the TEMPO science team.

In 2012, TEMPO became the first instrument to be awarded by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program in the Earth Venture Instrument Class Series. Earth Venture projects address new scientific priorities using advanced instrumentation carried on airborne platforms, small satellites, or as hosted payloads on larger platforms. The ESSP Program is located at NASA’s Langley Research Center.