ESA selects Dutch satellite system TANGO for emission monitoring

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ISISPACE to build TANGO Mission for ESA
TANGO consists of 2 small satellites working together

The European Space Agency (ESA) has given the green light for the realization of the Dutch TANGO satellites with ISISPACE as the prime contractor. TANGO measures greenhouse gas emissions at source level from power plants, coal mines, landfills and factories, among others. Its Dutch predecessor TROPOMI has already been monitoring the greenhouse gas methane worldwide since 2017 and can map about 5% of emission sources.

Its successor TANGO will be able to monitor sources responsible for around 75% global emissions of methane. Moreover, TANGO measures emissions of CO2, the gas that accounts for the largest output of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The satellites are being developed by a Dutch consortium consisting of ISISPACE, TNO, SRON and KNMI. TANGO is expected to be ready for launch early 2027.

Science as a service
ISISPACE is responsible for the overall mission implementation, the development of the satellite platforms and will carry out the daily operations of the mission. Jeroen Rotteveel, CEO of ISISPACE: “With TANGO, our company will provide scientific data as a service to ESA using Dutch instrumentation on our small satellites. With this space-as-a-service solution that combines our heritage in small satellites together with the excellent track record in climate monitoring from space in the Netherlands, our team can make a substantial contribution to the global climate challenge with a dedicated monitoring system.”

The Netherlands has had a global leading position in climate monitoring from space for some 40 years. TANGO proves this once more. The satellite mission can zoom in on places flagged as ‘interesting’ by other satellites, a kind of magnifying glass. TANGO then measures the exact emissions. “TANGO measures greenhouse gases at the scale of a housing block, allowing us to determine emissions from ten thousand sources such as power plants and factories every year. I see this as an important contribution by the Netherlands to a fair and sustainable future of our earth,” said Jochen Landgraf of SRON, which is responsible for the scientific management of TANGO, together with KNMI.

The accurate emission data that TANGO provides will help governments, scientists and companies to verify reported emissions. This allows them to check whether climate and environmental regulations of power plants, oil and gas installations and landfills are being complied with and to take targeted measures to reduce emissions. Currently, there is often a big difference between predicted and actual emissions. As was shown, for example, when TROPOMI determined in 2021 that emissions from Australian coal mines were many times higher than expected. Anton Leemhuis, director Earth observation at TNO: “We want to contribute to transparent and fair verification of greenhouse gas emissions at source level. By designing and building the measurement instruments that fly in TANGO and by creating an emissions’ atlas, we are making this possible. With this, we are taking the next step towards independent emissions monitoring.”

TANGO’s sharp look
TANGO (Twin Anthropogenic Greenhouse gas Observers) consists of two satellites, flying in tandem. It will be a unique European measurement system that will determine methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions for individual industrial plants. This will be done at a spatial resolution of about 300m x 300m. It is possible to point the satellites directly at detected sources of greenhouse gas emissions several times a week to measure them accurately. This also allows trends such as geographical distribution, variations of emissions and the effect of mitigation measures to be determined. Pepijn Veefkind (KNMI, co-scientific lead of the TANGO mission): “With this mission, we are mapping greenhouse gas emissions and making visible what is invisible. We are entering a new era where it is not just measuring on a large scale, but where it also becomes clear who is doing it and that is important in the global challenge to greatly reduce greenhouse gases.”