TEMPO air pollution space sensor completes development

The first space-based instrument to monitor major air pollutants.

Once in orbit, TEMPO will be the first space-based instrument to monitor major air pollutants across the North American continent hourly during daytime. Credits: SAO
Once in orbit, TEMPO will be the first space-based instrument to monitor major air pollutants across the North American continent hourly during daytime. Credits: SAO

NASA along with Kelly Chance from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge and Ball, has designed an instrument called Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, or TEMPO. TEMPO is a UV-visible spectrometer, sensitive to visible and ultraviolet wavelengths of light. It will make observations from a geostationary vantage point, about 22,000 miles above Earth’s equator.

NASA’s TEMPO, first space-based instrument, is all set to screen real air toxins over the North American continent hourly amid daytime. The sensor will also Revolutionize air quality forecasts and emission control techniques, and empower effective early public warning of pollution events.

The TEMPO instrument at Ball Aerospace Credits: Ball Aerospace
The TEMPO instrument at Ball Aerospace
Credits: Ball Aerospace

Though, NASA has decided to keep the instrument in storage at Ball until a host spacecraft is selected. NASA will partner with the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, California, to employ their Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) contract to issue a request for proposals from commercial companies to provide satellite integration, launch services and ground operations for TEMPO.

Chance said, “TEMPO exploits 30 years of our development of ultraviolet and visible atmospheric spectroscopy to make air quality measurements at revolutionary spectral and spatial scales.”

“With the completion of the instrument and full spaceflight qualification by Ball, we are extremely excited about the acceptance of TEMPO, which will lay the framework for NASA and SAO’s critical air quality measurements,” said TEMPO Project Manager Stephen Hall at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.”