AtmoSat aims at investigating the impact of chemical and physical processes in the middle atmosphere between five and hundred kilometres on regional and global climates. The joint operation of the Karlsruher Instituts für Technologie (KIT) and the Forschungszentrums Jülich (FZJ), with the participation of the GFZ, combines a satellite observation system and a related data infrastructure. The project now received the highest rating by a committee of the German Science Council. The Science Council advises the German Government on the development of science and research.
Scientists from the KIT and the FZJ developed a new method for AtmoSat that allows to generate 3D maps of the most important atmospheric trace gases like ozone, methane, and water vapour via infrared remote sensing. Led by Jens Wickert, GFZ section Space Geodetic Techniques and spokesperson of the Helmholtz-Topic GPS Atmosphere Sounding, the GFZ is involved in the project with a so-called GPS radio occultation instrument. With this new remote sensing method, a receiver onboard the satellite registers signals of navigation satellite systems and measures with high precision the impact of the atmosphere on the transit time of the signals. Like this, the global temperature distribution can be measured regardless of weather conditions and with no need for calibration. The launch of AtmoSat is scheduled for 2023.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF supports the development of important infrastructures like instruments, large infrastructures, and information infrastructure for science. Within a national roadmap the German Government defines the funding eligibility of infrastructures for the next legislative period. Before an infrastructure is included in the roadmap, it is evaluated by a committee of the German Science Council. The committee evaluated a total of eleven large infrastructures with a volume of more than 50 million Euro, including AtmoSat. According to the Science Council data generated by AtmoSat is „unique“ and „of the utmost relevance“.
The novel data provided by the satellite will improve not only climate research but also weather forecasting. The planned data infrastructure will allow for an intensive global exchange of data within the scientific community and will thereby help to improve climate models. Within its rating the Science Council expects that AtmoSat will significantly strengthen the German role in climate science.