The nonprofit MethaneSAT LLC announced today that it has signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver its new satellite into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Now under construction after completing an intensive design process, the MethaneSAT instrument is on schedule for a launch window that opens October 1, 2022.

“This is a unique mission on an ambitious timeline,” said Dr. Steven Hamburg, MethaneSAT project co-lead. “SpaceX offers the readiness and reliability we need to deliver our instrument into orbit and begin streaming emissions data as soon as possible. We couldn’t ask for a more capable launch partner.”

MethaneSAT is the newest in a growing wave of methane satellites. It is designed to fill a critical gap between existing missions by providing higher sensitivity and better spatial resolution than global mapping instruments like TROPOMI, combined with a much wider field of view than point-source systems like GHGSat. MethaneSAT plans to stream its data online at no charge for non-commercial users.

Cutting human-made methane emissions is increasingly recognized by scientists, policymakers and the oil and gas industry as a necessary element of any successful climate strategy. Measurements taken by MethaneSAT will enable both companies and governments to locate, quantify and track methane emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide, and use that data to reduce emissions of the highly potent greenhouse gas.

MethaneSAT is building an advanced data platform to automate complex analytics required to determine the amount of methane that is being released across a landscape, transforming a process that now takes scientists weeks or months into one that provides users with actionable data in just a few days. Making methane emissions data for oil and gas infrastructure across the globe freely available will create unprecedented transparency, giving stakeholders and the public a vital window on the progress toward emission reduction goals.

Unique mission

MethaneSAT is a subsidiary of Environmental Defense Fund, which has a long record of working with both business and policymakers to create innovative, science-based solutions to critical environmental challenges.

“Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is the fastest, most cost-effective way we have to slow the rate of warming right now, even as we continue to decarbonize the energy system,” said Mark Brownstein, EDF Senior Vice President for Energy. “MethaneSAT is designed to create transparency and accountability to make sure companies and governments don’t miss that opportunity.”

Last month, the Bezos Earth Fund announced a $100 million grant to EDF that will support critical work including completion and launch of MethaneSAT.

Last month, the Bezos Earth Fund announced a $100 million grant to EDF that will support critical work including completion and launch of MethaneSAT.

A leading source of expertise on methane emissions, EDF coordinated a sweeping series of studies that produced more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers involving more than 150 academic and industry co-authors who assessed methane emissions at every stage in the U.S. oil and gas supply chain.

Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry 45% by the year 2025 would have the same 20-year climate benefit as shutting down one-third of the world’s coal-fired power plants.

The idea for MethaneSAT was first unveiled by EDF President Fred Krupp in an April 2018 TED Talk, as one of the inaugural group of world-changing ideas selected for seed funding by the Audacious Project, successor to the TED Prize.