Dubai: MeznSat, built by UAE students and funded by the UAE Space Agency, is set for launch today at 3.20pm UAE time aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a Russian spaceport located 800km north of Moscow.
MeznSat, a 3U CubeSat built to detect Greenhouse Gas (GHG) concentrations, is a collaboration among UAE Space Agency, American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) and Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUST). It is set to orbit Earth in November, over one month after its launch, to study the coastal waters of the Arabian Gulf. It will also enrich scientific research and boost space-related activities while studying greenhouse gases and the red tide phenomenon in the UAE. Once in orbit, a team of students will then monitor, process and analyse the data from the ground station in YahSat Space Lab at Khalifa University as well as a ground station in AURAK.
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MeznSat is the UAE’s CubeSat, after Nayif-1 and MySat-1 that were launched in 2017 and 2018 respectively. A CubeSat is a miniaturised satellite used for space research that is made up of multiples of 10cm × 10 cm × 10cm cubic units. CubeSats have a mass of no more than 1.33kg per unit.
CubeSat to study climate change
Climate change has widely been attributed to the increase in GHGs in the atmosphere as a result of human activities. The impacts of climate change are expected to include shortage of water quantity and quality in most arid and semi-arid areas, and low agricultural productivity throughout the tropics and subtropics, accompanied by damage to ecosystems and biodiversity in these areas, and changes in forests and other ecosystems. Carbon Dioxide and Methane are the two most prevalent Greenhouse gases. Both emissions (methane and carbon dioxide) have to be addressed and monitored in order to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.
The UAE Space Agency said the primary scientific objective of MeznSat is to explorethe performance of sensing in the short-wave infrared (SWIR) region (1000—1650 nm) to detect the levels of CH4, CO2, and H2O in order to derive the atmospheric concentrations of important GHGs. This mission follows the previous missions like CanX-2, SathyabhamaSat, etc.
Its secondary scientific objective is to predict algal blooms in advance. The performance of sensing in the short-wave infrared (SWIR) region (1000—1650 nm) in combination with the RGB camera will be explored to estimate the concentration of total suspended matter (as a proxy for nutrients in water) in the coastal waters of the Arabian Gulf to predict an algal bloom in advance, to facilitate precautionary measures.
The UAE Space Agency noted: “The State of the Environment (SoE) Report for Abu Dhabi highlighted key vulnerabilities associated with climate change, principally sea-level rise coastal flooding; increased salinity of coastal aquifers; impacts on the marine environment; heat stress; built environment impacts; more extreme weather events (floods, droughts, etc); increased risk of dust storms; and risk from airborne contaminants (e.g. pesticides.)”
Jallad said the nanosatellite is designed to detect greenhouse gas concentrations from an orbit of 565km above the Earth. “The students will monitor, process and analyse the data from a ground station in the UAE. The processes and expertise involved in monitoring the atmosphere are similar to those employed during conventional Earth Observation programmes. The project looks to support Emirati young people in developing the skill sets necessary for the UAE’s ambitious National Space Programme and its future projects,” he added.