Enterprise Ireland currently funds Irish students to participate in the yearly Alpbach summer school. This is an intensive 10 day course with students working taking lectures and workshops on a range of space related topics and working in teams to produce a report on a specific project.
The Irish participants this year were Ian Carter from DIT, James Carton from DCU, Derek Killi from UCD and Enda McLaoughlin from NUI Maynooth. The theme was to develop “New Missions for Understanding Climate Change”.
Ian Carter (DIT), James Carton (DCU), Dilek Killi (UCD), Enda McLaoughlin (NUI Maynooth)
Four teams proposed earth observation mission involving a suite of monitoring satellites to fill in gaps in the current understanding of global climate change. The teams identified high impact missions, designed the satellite sensor technology, picked the required orbital parameters to achieve the required spatial and temporal resolution and established the total cost of the proposed satellite including the build, launch and projected operational life. The four proposed missions along with a brief explanation of their purpose are listed below
Evolution and Radiative Impact Contrails Cirrus (ERICC)
The effect of high altitude jet contrails on climate change is a topic of some debate since contrails are predicted to both reflect incoming solar radiation and trap outgoing heat from the earth. This mission is aimed at gathering sufficient experimental data to accurately determine the impact of contrails on the Earth’s thermal balance.
Dual Retrieval Of Precipitation (DROP)
Climate change is predicted to affect the distribution and intensity of precipitation, decreasing it a low latitudes and increasing it at higher latitudes. This proposed mission was designed to measure precipitation in the mid and high latitudes with high accuracy over wide spatial ranges so that this important indicator of climate change can be quantified.
Atmospheric water Vapour from an Active Limb-sounding Observing Network (AVALON)
While CO2 is often the sole greenhouse gas considered when discussing climate change other constituents also play an important role. This mission will investigate the quantity of water vapor, an important greenhouse gas, in the upper atmosphere. Limb-sounding is a measurement technique whereby a transmitter and a receiver satellite are spaced such that the signal path between them passes through the upper atmosphere. Analyzing the signal attenuation determined the composition of the atmosphere.
CO2 estimation from Biomass burning in tropical regions (VESTA)
When considering the source of CO2 emissions, the typical image that comes to mind is often an industrial power plant or a large traffic jam however biomass burning is a perhaps neglected source of atmospheric CO2, particularly in tropical regions. The Vesta mission is designed to derive data on CO2 emissions by observing the infared radiation emitted by both man-made fires and wild fires in the tropics.
For more detailed information the reports and presentations on each project can be found online. The lectures from this years programme are also available for download and should be a great resource for anybody interested in earth observation and the design of space missions.