York experiment successfully launched aboard microsatellite

York University researchers will begin measuring pollution on Earth with instrumentation aboard a Canadian microsatellite, launched on an Indian spacecraft yesterday.

York University’s Argus microspectrometer is riding aboard the University of Toronto’s CanX-2 microsatellite, launched out of Sriharikota, India, at 9:23am local time (11:53pm EST) on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-9.

"This is the first space instrument with the precision required to identify individual sources of pollution on a global scale," says project leader Ben Quine (left), a professor in York’s Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering.

The Argus device, which is small enough to fit in the palm of an adult’s hand, can identify sources of pollution up to a range of one kilometre from its source by measuring carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Its satellite host is equally diminutive, at roughly the size of a carton of milk. This micro-technology paves the way for a new era of sustainable space instrumentation, says Quine.

"We’re moving away from clunky machines that cost millions upon millions of dollars to equipment that’s smaller, costs less, and is more efficient," he says.

Quine believes Argus’ mandate is essential. "We need this kind of hard data to support Kyoto and other climate change initiatives," says Quine.

Researchers will receive data from the experiment as early as next week.