ESA selects limb-sounder mission CAIRT for Phase A development

The CAIRT (changing-atmosphere infrared tomography) satellite mission is one of two Earth Explorer (EE-11) candidate projects selected for Phase A development in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) FutureEO programme. This decision by ESA’s Programme Board for Earth Observation is based on a scientific recommendation by the Advisory Committee for Earth Observation, following the EE-11 User Consultation Meeting in October 2023 where four Phase 0 missions were evaluated. Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO) of University of Oulu and Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) are working on the scientific definition and maturation of CAIRT in a consortium led by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

CAIRT would be the first limb-sounder with imaging Fourier-transform infrared technology in space. With this technique observations covering the atmosphere from troposphere to lower thermosphere can be obtained with unprecedented spatial resolution. “It’s a pleasure to work for a mission that would allow us study the chemical-dynamical system as a complete system, and understand greatest science questions of space-atmosphere coupling, atmospheric wave forcing, middle atmospheric circulation and dynamics, and how these relate to regional climate variability”, says Pekka Verronen, a professor at SGO and FMI. One particular benefit of CAIRT observations is expected when they are combined with data from other satellite instruments. “We expect to understand the troposphere-stratosphere exchange in fine detail, this requires measurements that have not been previously available”, adds Senior Scientist Jukka Kujanpää from FMI.

Now entering Phase A, the CAIRT mission will be developed further to mature the concept and demonstrate its feasibility both scientifically and technically. ESA will make final selection between the two remaining EE-11 missions in 2025.

Further information

CAIRT web page:

ESA’s Announcement: SA’s Announcement: CAIRT and WIVERN go forward

ESA's Earth Explorer 11 (EE11) User Consultation Meeting:

Last updated: 1.12.2023