ISU MSS 2024

ESA Selects Four New Potential Earth Explorer Mission Ideas

ESA's Aelous Earth Explorer Missions. Credit: ESA
Credit: ESA

Ibadan, 22 April 2024.- The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected four new Earth Explorer mission ideas for assessment study, one of which will be the twelfth in the Earth Explorer satellite missions. ESA’s Earth Explorer missions have yielded a wealth of astonishing findings, serving as the bedrock of scientific research in this field.

The ESA Advisory Committee for Earth Observation (ACEO) evaluated 17 submissions and recommended that four of the ideas should go forward to the assessment study phase. ESA’s Program Board for Earth Observation then formally accepted the recommendation. As a result, the four new mission ideas; CryoRad, ECO, Hydroterra+, and Keystone mission will undergo full assessment and, in effect, take the first competitive steps towards becoming ESA’s twelfth Earth Explorer

CryoRad aims to fill a gap in observations of the cryosphere through the direct measurement of low-frequency passive-microwave brightness temperatures using a novel broadband radiometer. Meanwhile, the Hydroterra+ satellite mission intends to leverage a geostationary orbit above the equator and its satellite C-band synthetic aperture radar to deliver data twice a day over Europe, the Mediterranean and northern Africa to understand rapid processes tied to the water cycle and tectonic events in these regions.

Keystone aims to provide the first direct observations of atomic oxygen in the altitude range of 50–150 km using a unique combination of limb-sounding techniques. These will enable the study of processes that drive the variability and energy balance of the mesosphere-lower-thermosphere region of the atmosphere. Likewise, the ECO mission seeks to measure the difference between incoming solar radiation and outgoing radiation, which defines Earth’s energy ‘imbalance’ and which fundamentally controls Earth’s climate system.

These concepts will now undergo assessment phase studies, which will last about 18 months. Down-selections will come after this before the eventual Earth Explorer 12 mission selection.

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