PARIS German space hardware manufacturer OHB Technology has signed an agreement with the Chinese government with a view to developing a small constellation of satellites to measure methane and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, OHB announced.

Bremen-based OHB and several partners in Europe have been working in recent months on a constellation called CarbonSat, which company officials say ideally will be a multinational effort including China. China, whose economic growth has made it a principal source of greenhouse gases, is unlikely to agree to stiff measures to reduce global warming unless it has its own data to verify the severity of the problem, OHB officials have said.

The memorandum of understanding with China’s Institute of Remote Sensing Applications, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is the first step to winning Chinese and, eventually, European government support for the mission.

“The Chinese involvement in this new German-Chinese partnership shows how seriously both sides are committed to the transparent implementation of the post-Kyoto Protocol,” said Berry Smutny, chief executive of OHB System, which is the company’s satellite building division. “Global monitoring of CO2 emissions is only possible from space. We hope that other nations will also become involved.”

OHB officials said one model for the constellation might be the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a group of Earth imaging satellites to which different nations contribute their own spacecraft.

“This system will be open and transparent for all countries, thus providing a globally accepted source of climatic data for the first time,” OHB said in a statement.


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.