California is ‘launching our own damn satellite’ to track pollution, with help from Planet

California plans to launch a satellite to monitor pollution in the state and contribute to climate science, Governor Jerry Brown announced today. The state is partnering with satellite imagery purveyor Planet to create a custom craft to “pinpoint – and stop – destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”

Governor Brown made the announcement in the closing remarks of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, echoing a pledge made two years ago to scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s 2016 meeting.

“With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” Brown said today.

Planet, which has launched hundreds of satellites in the last few years in order to provide near-real-time imagery of practically anywhere on Earth, will develop and operate the satellite. The plan is to equip it with sensors that can detect pollutants at their point sources, be they artificial or natural. That kind of direct observation enables direct action.

Technical details of the satellite are to be announced as the project solidifies. We can probably expect something like a 6U CubeSat loaded with instruments focused on detecting certain gases and particulates.

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