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Today's MethaneSAT launch represents a new era in climate action

Today marks a significant milestone in environmental protection and climate science with the launch of MethaneSAT, a pioneering satellite mission designed to tackle methane emissions

Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Reducing methane emissions is increasingly viewed as a crucial strategy for slowing global warming.

The role of MethaneSAT 

Developed by a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading environmental non-profit organization, MethaneSAT is set to revolutionize the way we identify, measure, and reduce methane emissions, particularly from the oil and gas industry – the world’s largest industrial methane emitter.

Scheduled for launch just after 2:00pm Pacific Time aboard a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket, MethaneSAT’s mission is groundbreaking in its scope and potential impact. This satellite is unique in its ability to see and quantify total methane emissions over wide areas that other satellites cannot, thereby identifying large emitters in previously overlooked locations. 

MethaneSAT will empower companies, regulators, and various stakeholders – including citizens, governments, investors, and gas importers – with free access to emissions data. This unprecedented level of transparency will improve accountability and facilitate faster reductions in methane emissions.

Single fastest way to slow global warming

“Cutting methane pollution from fossil fuel operations, agriculture and other sectors is the single fastest way to slow the rate of warming as we continue to decarbonize our energy systems,” said EDF President Fred Krupp. 

“To do that requires comprehensive data on this pollution on a global scale. MethaneSAT will show us the full scope of the opportunity by tracking emissions to their source.”

MethaneSAT is a direct result of EDF’s long-standing commitment to methane science and solutions, a journey that began over a decade ago and was highlighted in Krupp’s 2018 TED Talk as part of the TED Audacious Project.

MethaneSAT’s remarkable capabilities 

The satellite’s capabilities are remarkable. MethaneSAT can circle the Earth 15 times a day, detecting changes in methane concentrations as small as three parts per billion. Its high sensitivity, resolution, and wide field of view are designed to capture the complete picture of methane emissions.

“MethaneSAT’s superpower is the ability to precisely measure methane levels with high resolution over wide areas, including smaller, diffuse sources that account for most emissions in many regions,” said Steven Hamburg, EDF Chief Scientist and MethaneSAT project leader. “Knowing how much methane is coming from where and how the rates are changing is essential.”

MethaneSAT is a collaborative victory

Beyond its scientific and environmental significance, MethaneSAT represents a collaborative victory, made possible by the support of EDF donors and partnerships, notably with the Government of New Zealand. Major contributors include the Bezos Earth Fund, Arnold Ventures, the Robertson Foundation, and the TED Audacious Project. 

Dr. Kelly Levin from the Bezos Earth Fund hailed MethaneSAT as a game-changer in methane detection, praising its potential to enhance scientific understanding and enforce accountability.

“Methane emissions have been overlooked and hard to detect for far too long,” said Dr. Levin. “MethaneSAT changes the equation, putting science and data front and center. From the sky, it can see what others can’t, helping good actors and holding bad actors accountable. The Bezos Earth Fund is proud to be a partner in this adventure.”

Holding companies and governments accountable 

The launch of MethaneSAT comes at a critical time when global momentum is building for more stringent methane management. 

The satellite will bolster recent initiatives aimed at holding companies and governments more accountable for their methane emissions, including efforts by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the International Energy Agency, RMI, and the UN Environment Programme’s International Methane Emission Observatory. 

The importance of measurable data

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, highlighted the importance of measurable data in tackling methane emissions.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and that’s certainly true when it comes to cutting methane, one of the biggest drivers of climate change,” said Bloomberg. 

“Data from this satellite will help us to better measure methane emissions and target their sources, bringing more transparency to the problem, giving companies and investors the information they need to take action, and empowering the public to hold people accountable.”

MethaneSAT’s mission aligns with international commitments, such as the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. It also supports the Oil & Gas Decarbonization Charter announced at COP28, aiming to virtually eliminate methane emissions and routine flaring. 

Why is it so urgent to tackle methane emissions?

Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas, second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in its impact on climate change. It is composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Methane is significant for several reasons:


Methane is much more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere, making it a highly potent greenhouse gas. Over a 20-year period, its global warming potential is over 80 times that of CO2, though it is less over longer periods due to its shorter atmospheric lifetime.


Major sources of methane emissions include natural processes and human activities. Natural sources include wetlands, termites, and the oceans. 

Human-related sources are more diverse, including the production and transport of coal, oil, and natural gas (due to leaks and venting), livestock and other agricultural practices (especially from the digestive processes of ruminant animals), landfills, and waste treatment.

Atmospheric life

Methane has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere compared to CO2, about 12 years, but it is much more efficient at trapping radiation, making its short-term effects on climate change significant.

Climate impact

Methane contributes to the greenhouse effect. Its increase in the atmosphere is responsible for about one-fifth of global warming. Managing methane emissions is considered a critical lever for mitigating climate change, especially in the short term, as reducing methane emissions can have a rapid effect on atmospheric warming potential.

To watch the live launch of MethaneSAT, visit

Image Credit: BAE Systems 


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