For creating an orbiting eye to track pollution
South Korea is soaring well beyond the ozone to fight pollution. In February, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute launched the first of three satellites designed to work together to keep a watchful eye on pollutants in the region’s air and oceans—from 36,000 kilometers (22,369 miles) above the equator. The Chollian-2B project marks a huge step in the country’s space program.
“When we kicked off the development of the Chollian-2 series in July 2011, many people doubted whether we would be able to make it with our own technology,” Choi Jae-dong, director of the satellite program at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said at a news conference. “But we overcame challenges over the past eight years to develop it on our own.”
Equipped with a spectrometer, the satellite can monitor the movement of fine dust and air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, aerosols and formaldehyde in unprecedented detail. From its fixed orbital location, Chollian-2B will take hourly measurements across the East Asia region. The resulting data will help scientists pinpoint the source of major air pollutants, as well as provide advanced forecasts for weather and air quality.
Other space programs are gearing up to expand the effort. NASA plans to launch a nearly identical instrument to monitor air quality over North America in 2022, while a similar European Space Agency satellite, set to launch in 2023, will cover Europe and North Africa. The ultimate goal of the missions: understand— and mitigate—the effects of air pollution on the environment and human health.