France and Germany To Split CHARME Cost

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France and Germany have agreed to divide evenly the estimated $165 million cost for the satellite to measure atmospheric methane that was approved during a recent Franco-German bilateral summit, according to officials of the two governments.

The satellite, to be named CHARME — CH4 Atmospheric Remote Monitoring Explorer — will use the Myriade small-satellite platform developed by the French space agency, CNES. It will provide 160 watts of power, including 60 watts for the primary instrument payload.

The 180-kilogram CHARME is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2013 or 2014 aboard Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher, which is expected to enter service in 2011.

CHARME is designed to operate for three years in a 650-kilometer polar sun-synchronous orbit and measure methane levels in the atmosphere. Methane is viewed as a greenhouse gas that contributes to Earth’s warming.

The program’s budget is estimated at 120 million euros ($165 million), including the satellite’s construction, launch and three years of operations.

CHARME’s principal instrument, to be provided by the German aerospace center, DLR, will be an experimental LIDAR, or light detection and ranging, instrument composed of a high-power laser emitter, a light-sensitive detector and a telescope to receive the laser light that is deflected back from the Earth’s surface or from clouds.

Germany and France will develop separate processing and distribution systems for CHARME data.