National Physical Laboratory

Improved climate forecasting as TRUTHS moves closer to launch

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in partnership with Airbus Defence and Space, is expecting to shortly complete negotiations with the UK Space Agency (UKSA) for the award of the final contribution to funding in excess of £1.25M. This funding will move the proposed TRUTHS mission a step closer to launch, and with it the prospect of the data needed to reduce uncertainty in climate forecasting.

TRUTHS satellite concept
The proposed TRUTHS satellite

The award was the outcome of a recent call for proposals from the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation and Space Technology (CEOI-ST).

With the challenges posed by climate change, there's a pressing need for robust, traceable, and detailed satellite data in order to improve our understanding of how the Earth's climate is changing. The Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL is endeavouring to meet this challenge with its proposed TRUTHS (Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio-Studies) mission.

TRUTHS will not only provide invaluable data on the Earth's climate, but will act as an in-orbit primary calibration standard boosting the performance of other satellites such as the Sentinels of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the EU.

The launch of the TRUTHS satellite would provide traceable measurements of unprecedented accuracy - a factor of 10 better than current sensors - allowing scientists to identify trends from amongst the noise of the natural background variation in less than half the time currently required. This data could then be used to improve climate models allowing them to produce reliable predictions of how the climate will evolve over the coming decades. Policy makers would then be able to act with confidence when deciding how to mitigate the effects of climate change. The mission would also provide data to aid developing nations with food security and help stimulate new commercial applications for Earth Observation and climate data, a key element of the UK's space strategy and ambitions.

The grant will contribute to the development of a new, optimised, version of the Cryogenic Solar Absolute Radiometer (CSAR). CSAR is the key component of the TRUTHS mission that measures the energy incident on the Earth from the Sun, a vital piece of information when analysing the Earth's climate. Using cryogenic technology from Airbus Defence and Space will allow it to operate at temperatures below -230°C minimising the sources of uncertainty that affect such instruments. CSAR is also the heart of the innovative in-flight calibration system which enables a step change improvement in accuracy of Earth viewing sensors.

The objective of this current project will be to take CSAR and the associated parts of the calibration system a step closer towards deployment in space and with it a future global climate observatory as envisaged by the international climate community, and the knowledge it would provide, becomes an achievable goal.

Find out more about NPL's TRUTHS mission

Find out more about the Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL

For further details, contact Nigel Fox

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Last Updated: 26 Aug 2015
Created: 15 Dec 2014


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