The European Space Agency has chosen “Harmony” for the tenth mission of the Earth explorer


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After rigorous preparatory and practical activities, today ESA member states have officially selected Harmony for implementation as the tenth Earth exploration mission under the FutureEO programme. Thus, this unique concept of a satellite mission is now poised to become a reality to provide a wealth of new information about our oceans, ice, earthquakes and volcanoes – which will make significant contributions to climate research and risk monitoring.

Earth Explorers are central to the European Space Agency’s FutureEO programme, pioneering research missions that show how new observational technologies are leading to new scientific findings about our planet. Advancing science and technology, it addresses questions that have a direct impact on climate change and societal issues such as the availability of food, water, energy, and resources, and public health.

The Earth is a highly dynamic system in which the transfer and exchange of energy and matter is regulated through many processes and feedback mechanisms. Solving these complex processes in order to better understand how the Earth functions as a system is a major challenge.

Thanks to Harmony, the image is set to become clearer.

By advancing science, Harmony, in turn, will also help address societal issues such as those set forth in The Great Challenges of the Global Climate Research Program and the number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This exciting new mission will consist of two identical satellites orbiting the Earth in convoy with the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Each Harmony satellite will carry a receiver-only synthetic aperture radar and a multi-view infrared thermocouple.

Combined with observations from Sentinel-1, Harmony will provide a wide range of unique, high-resolution observations of motion occurring at or near the Earth’s surface.

Ocean and Atmosphere Interaction

Harmony principal investigator Paco López-Dekker, of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, explained, “Harmony will be used, for example, to identify the processes that govern the exchange of momentum, heat, and moisture between the ocean surface and the air above. These exchanges influence processes in the atmosphere. The bottom, lead to weather patterns, and affect our climate.

It will also be used to study the deformation and flow dynamics at the edges of the rapidly changing ice sheet in order to better understand sea level rise.

Additionally, Harmony will monitor the movement of mountain glaciers, which are essential in providing fresh water to hundreds of millions of people, so the importance of understanding how they are changing cannot be overstated.

Change the ice sheets

“Harmony will be used to measure small shifts in the shape of the Earth’s surface such as those related to earthquakes and volcanic activity, thus contributing to risk monitoring.”

Over the past four years, the Harmony concept has undergone a rigorous feasibility check and pre-development process, culminating in the ESA’s Program Board for Earth Observation (PB-EO) accepting the European Space Agency’s proposal, also based on scientific advice and recommendation from the advisory Committee on Earth Observation (ACEO). ).

“ESA’s ground-breaking Earth Explorer research missions are fundamental to Europe’s position as a global leader in Earth observation,” said Rene Forsberg, Acting Chair of the European Space Agency’s Earth Observation Advisory Committee. We are very excited to see Harmony join this extraordinary family of missions. We are sure it will advance our understanding of the workings of our fragile planet.”

Earthquake Hazards

Simonetta Chile, Director of Earth Observation Programs at the European Space Agency, added, “Indeed, Earth explorers are central to the FutureEO program – a program that harnesses new ideas to develop pioneering satellite missions and concepts and test innovative technologies. By nurturing new innovative ways of using Earth observation, Earth observation allows FutureEO Scientific Excellence to Prosper To Meet Tomorrow’s Societal Challenges.

“The new technologies and observational techniques demonstrated by Earth explorers are also key to the development of ‘operational’ missions, such as the Copernicus Sentinel missions in Europe, which provide systematic data for environmental services.

“In the case of Harmony, we envision that its technology will be critical to enhancing the capabilities of the next generation Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission.”

With Harmony officially selected as the 10th Earth Explorer, the mission is part of the ESA’s FutureEO Earth Observation Program proposal at the upcoming ministerial-level council, cm 22 It is where Member States make the financing decisions.

Then the next step will involve fine-tuning the mission design and subsequent construction with the goal of launching the satellites in 2029.