Energy Management

Interferometer blasts into space aboard the IBUKI satellite


Jan 27, 2009

Recently named “IBUKI” (meaning “breathe” in Japanese), the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) launched into space on Jan. 22 at 10:30 p.m. EST (12:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, Japan time). Implemented as part of the Kyoto Protocol, the GOSAT mission is an initiative of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the National Institute for Environmental Studies and Japan's Ministry of the Environment. The project will use the world's first satellite to observe greenhouse gases from space, particularly CO 2 and methane.

The principal component of the Japanese satellite is a spatial interferometer developed by ABB. The interferometer was developed by an expert team of more than 15 specialists, comprised primarily of mechanical, electrical and software engineers, physicians, opticians and technicians.

The $10 million contract was awarded to ABB Analytical in August 2005 by NEC TOSHIBA Space Systems, the principal supplier of mission instruments to the GOSAT program. ABB delivered the unit in June 2007.

The company's interferometer is a system capable of transmitting accurate daily atmospheric measurements of global carbon dioxide and methane gas distribution from a distance of 666 kilometers above Earth. These measurements will be used to record and evaluate gas levels in the atmosphere. The measurement processes use the "spectral signature" of molecules emitted by CO 2 and other gases, which makes them easy to identify and quantify thanks to infrared technology, which allows for the reading of the signature and the establishment of molecular density. By taking readings at various points of orbit, latitude, longitude and altitude, it is possible to generate profiles defining the concentration level of each gas in the atmosphere.

The GOSAT program also is important because the number of Earth stations for observing carbon dioxide has been limited to date, most notably due to the uneven distribution of the gas on the planet. The IBUKI satellite will be the first observation station capable of consistently and thoroughly assuring the monitoring of greenhouse gas daily at 56,000 observation points. As such, scientists will be able to combine the global observation data sent from space with the data already collected on Earth.

Watch the satellite launch on JAXA's Web site at