ESA selects Harmony as 10th Explorer mission
Following preparatory activities and a rigorous process, ESA Member States today officially selected Harmony for implementation as the tenth Earth Explorer mission under the FutureEO program. This unique concept of a satellite mission is therefore on the way to becoming a reality to provide a wealth of new information on our oceans, our ice, our earthquakes and our volcanoes – which will make a significant contribution to climate research and risk monitoring.
The backbone of ESA’s FutureEO programme, Earth Explorers are pioneering research missions that show how new observation techniques lead to new scientific discoveries about our planet. Advancing science and technology, they address issues that have a direct bearing on climate change and societal issues such as the availability of food, water, energy, resources and health. public.
The Earth is a highly dynamic system where the transport and exchange of energy and matter are regulated by a multitude of processes and feedback mechanisms. Unraveling these complex processes to better understand how the Earth works as a system is a major challenge.
Thanks to Harmony, the picture should become much clearer.
By advancing science, Harmony will in turn help solve societal problems such as those set out in the Grand Challenges of the World Climate Research Program and a number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
This exciting new mission will include two identical satellites orbiting the Earth in convoy with a Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Each Harmony satellite will carry a reception-only synthetic aperture radar and a multi-view thermal infrared instrument.
Along with Sentinel-1 observations, Harmony will provide a wide range of unique high-resolution observations of motion occurring on or near the Earth’s surface.
Harmony lead researcher Paco Lopez-Dekker from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands explained: “Harmony will, for example, be used to quantify the processes that govern the exchange of momentum, of heat and moisture between the surface of the ocean and the These exchanges influence processes in the lower atmosphere, determine weather patterns and affect our climate.
“It will also be used to study the deformation and flow dynamics at the edges of the rapidly changing ice sheet for a better understanding of sea level rise.
“In addition, Harmony will observe the movement of mountain glaciers, which are essential in providing fresh water to hundreds of millions of people, so the importance of understanding how they change cannot be overstated.
“And, Harmony will be used to measure small changes in the shape of the earth’s surface such as those related to earthquakes and volcanic activity, and therefore help in monitoring risks.”
Over the past four years, the Harmony concept has undergone a rigorous feasibility review and pre-development process, culminating in Council acceptance of the Earth Observation Program (PB -EO) of the ESA of the ESA proposal, also based on the scientific opinion and the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. Committee on Earth Observations (ACEO).
Rene Forsberg, Acting Chair of ESA’s Earth Observation Advisory Board, said: “ESA’s pioneering Earth exploration research missions are fundamental to Europe’s position as the world leader in Earth observation. We are extremely happy to have Harmony join this extraordinary family of missions and we are sure that it will bring significant advances in our understanding of the workings of our fragile planet.”
Simonetta Cheli, Director of Earth Observation Programs at ESA, added: “Indeed, Earth explorers are at the heart of our FutureEO program – a program that harnesses new ideas to develop missions and pioneering satellite concepts and to test innovative technologies. By fostering imaginative new ways to use Earth Observation, FutureEO enables scientific excellence to flourish to address the societal challenges of tomorrow.
“New technology and observation techniques proven by Earth explorers are also essential for developing ‘operational’ missions, such as Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel missions, which provide systematic data for environmental services.
“In the case of Harmony, we envision that its technology will be important in enhancing the capabilities of the Copernicus Sentinel-1 Next Generation mission.”
With Harmony officially selected as the tenth Earth explorer, the mission is part of ESA’s Earth observation FutureEO program proposal at the upcoming Ministerial Council, CM22, where funding decisions will be taken by the Member States. FutureEO demonstrates ESA’s leadership in collecting the data scientists need to understand our planet and help solve tomorrow’s challenges.
For Harmony, the next step will then be to refine the mission design and subsequent construction, in preparation for the launch of the satellites in 2029.
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