A climate change smallsat project is bringing U.S. and Russian scientists together

“I’m excited that we not only get to do basic science but also address issues that are of real consequences to humans,” Baker told SCMP. “This dual use of basic research and applied research is at the core of what the [satellite] constellations are about.”

Baker added that some of the satellites will go into orbit by 2025. They will be launched in constellations, allowing data to be combined to provide a bigger picture, as opposed to older CubeSat missions that would have one point of data.

“[The previous approach] led to uncertainty and ambiguity about whether the things we measure at that one particular point represent the characteristics of the whole system,” Baker explained. He also mentioned that the new mission was made possible due to advances in low-cost satellite launches, as well as innovations in smallsat technologies.

Working together despite “difficult geopolitical circumstances”

Each of the satellites will feature two or three instruments and will weigh as little as a few kilograms. The project is organized by the Committee on Space Research (Cospar) in Paris, which was formed in 1958 and maintains an open policy allowing scientists from any nation to take part. “Cospar provides a neutral platform for countries to work together in difficult geopolitical situations,” Wu Ji, a Beijing-based senior space scientist and member of the Cospar task group for the project, told SCMP.

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