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Safran on board: satellites to help us understand climate change


Over the years, space has become an essential tool in the fight against climate change. Satellites now play a vital role in monitoring, modelling and understanding the climate, biodiversity, and the changing status of oceans, forests and glaciers. They also help streamline human activity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, better manage ecosystems and promote biodiversity. Find out how Safran’s space activities are helping to address the global climate challenge...

Sunrise view from space in 3D

Monitoring the impact of global warming on our ecosystems

The Earth's orbit provides a unique viewpoint for observing the impact of human activity on the climate. Supported by the European Community and the European Space Agency, the Copernicus program is responsible for monitoring the effects of climate change to help us improve our understanding of the planet and manage our environment sustainably. Safran is a key stakeholder in this European Earth observation program, manufacturing the optical components (mirrors, dioptric sub-assemblies, filters) for its satellite constellations: Sentinel-4, -5 and -8. For example, Copernicus is able to measure ocean variables – levels of acidity, salinity, temperature, etc. – to protect the marine environment. It can additionally provide data on changes to sea ice and monitor soil temperatures to support sustainable farming.


Climate change is causing extreme weather events to become more frequent and more intense. While Meteosat satellites can monitor and reliably predict weather phenomena (clouds, precipitation, wind, etc.) in near-real-time, they are also equipped with sensors that enable them to warn of disasters such as storms, large-scale forest fires, volcanic eruptions and oil spills, and track their progress. Safran participates on a number of levels by supplying the space mirrors and optical sub-assemblies for the MTG (Meteosat Third Generation) program, the onboard communications system for the Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS), and the ground antennas to control and receive data from the second-generation Eumetsat Polar System (EPS).


Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions

Safran also develops high-performance optics for two satellites, MicroCarb and Merlin, which measure carbon dioxide and methane levels. MicroCarb will be the first satellite to measure atmospheric CO2, the main greenhouse gas caused by human activity, on a global level and to ascertain its sources of emission.

Merlin, a Franco-German program, will measure emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, accentuated by melting permafrost in the Arctic region. The two programs, both presented at COP21, will play a key role in ensuring that nations respect the commitments they made under the Paris Agreement.

Safran also provides secure data reception solutions for Earth observation satellites, ensuring the data can then be exploited. These satellites generate a huge volume of data, requiring powerful, very high-speed and energy-efficient data links to save electricity on board the satellites.


 Helping to protect biodiversity


Climate change, deforestation, pollution, and harmful effects of tourism are all major threats to our planet's biodiversity. On a global scale, satellite monitoring is the only way to study animal species and the changes to their environment. For several decades, researchers have been using the ARGOS system to locate and track wild animals by satellite. It uses beacons placed on animals to collect and transmit data (body temperature, heart rate, speed, etc.) and geographically locate the source using instruments on the low-orbit satellite constellation. Safran designs and manufactures ARGOS beacons equipped with a number of sensors, a GNSS (GPS/Galileo) receiver to track the animal at all times, and a transmitter to send the data to the system.


In addition to the contributions made by its entities, Safran is working with players in the French and European space sector on the SpacEarth Initiative, launched by the French Aerospace Industries Association GIFAS to promote ethical and responsible use of space, and to protect the environment. "After over half a century of space exploration, our expertise in space technology now focuses on a new challenge that is just as strategic: sustainable development. And our innovations play a key role in Safran's proactive policy in this field," says Jean-Marie Bétermier, Senior VP Space at Safran Electronics & Defense.