NEC contributes to the future of humans and the world by developing high-precision observation sensors mounted on the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite "Ibuki"
It has been 12 years since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, which stipulates global standards for numerical targets in the reduction of greenhouse gases. A new contribution to global environmental activities is set to begin in 2009: the launch of the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite "Ibuki."
In order to solve the problem of global warming, it is essential to observe concentrations of and changes in greenhouse gases around the globe, but there are still not enough terrestrial observation points in enough regions to enable efficient and comprehensive measurements.
The "Ibuki" Project was initiated in 2004 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. The goal of this project is to gain an overview of greenhouse gas levels around the globe from space, using high-precision observation sensors mounted on a satellite.
NEC was in charge of developing greenhouse gas observation sensors, a core element of this important project. NEC was selected as a partner on the Ibuki Project because it has more than 50 years of experience in the development and launching of various satellites, including "Osumi," Japan's first satellite, as well as the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite "Himawari," the Advanced Land Observation Satellite "Daichi," and the Selenological and Engineering Explorer "Kaguya."
In addition to satellites, NEC has comprehensive strengths in a wide range of space-related fields, including satellite-mounted devices, international space stations, rocket-mounted devices, and ground systems. NEC has already been conducting research and development targeting observation sensors for more than 30 years, combining advanced IT based on this extensive field-proven track record and experience.
The role of the observation sensors mounted on the Ibuki is to observe the reflections of the sun's light from the clouds and the Earth's surface (visible near infrared light) and the light emitted by the Earth itself (thermal infrared light). NEC focused on the fact that greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere absorb the light emitted or reflected by the Earth. The absorption rates differ depending on the type and concentration of gas, and optic sensors pick up on these differences from space. By using detailed analyses of these differences, we are able to accurately calculate the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The observation sensors that NEC was in charge of developing are comprised of two optic sensors. One is the main sensor that detects the distribution of concentrations for several types of greenhouse gases, including CO2 and methane gas. The other is for measuring clouds, aerosols, and other factors that could affect the accurate observation of greenhouse gases. This second sensor is used for data corrections to enable more accurate monitoring of greenhouse gas concentrations.
The satellite will be positioned about 666 km above the Earth's surface. When developing the observation sensors to continue providing accurate observations over a long period of time in space, where maintenance is impossible, the engineers faced numerous challenges in dealing with technical issues that would not affect terrestrial applications.
"We were determined to see the job through, and to complete development before the deadline," says Project Leader Katsuyama, who was involved in developing the observation sensor. "The source of that determination was our commitment to production, which is the starting point for any manufacturer, and our pride in knowing that the technologies we were developing would contribute to humans and the Earth."
The result of these engineers' efforts was an observation sensor that demonstrates outstanding safety, reliability, and durability.
The Ibuki was launched on January 23, 2009. With about 56,000 observation points worldwide, it will offer precise measurements of greenhouse gas concentrations around the entire globe in units of 10 km2.
The observation data sent from the Ibuki will be processed by Ground Data Processing Systems, and will be presented in the form of a global map that will offer an easy-to-read visual display of the distribution of greenhouse gas concentrations throughout the world. This observation data will also be provided free of charge to all countries, and is expected to be used as a global standard index in a wide range of environmental activities in those countries.
"The desire of all the engineers," says Katsuyama in anticipation, "is that the environmental data on greenhouse gases received from Ibuki will be useful in further promoting environmental activities in countries around the world."