In May, Maxar received the primary instrument for NASA’s TEMPO mission from Ball Aerospace, a major milestone for this unique program. TEMPO stands for Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, and it is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to monitor and track air pollution across North America on an hourly basis. Maxar was chosen in 2019 to integrate the TEMPO instrument on a commercial satellite destined for geostationary orbit.

TEMPO will be hosted on Intelsat 40e, a Maxar-built 1300-class commercial geostationary satellite. From a vantage point 22,236 miles above North America, TEMPO will be able to make complete, hourly east-to-west scans of the continent – from Mexico to northern Canada, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. TEMPO can also be configured to dwell on a region of interest: during a major fire or volcano eruption, for example.

The TEMPO instrument will measure air pollution—including ozone, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols—that can damage human health and the environment. This will be the first space-based instrument to provide hourly monitoring of major air pollutants during the daytime across the continent at high spatial resolution.

By hosting government payloads on our commercial satellites, Maxar can help government agencies access space without the cost of building a dedicated spacecraft. Similarly, the hosted payload helps the commercial customer share the cost of the satellite bus, launch and operations. TEMPO specifically is a demanding payload on its host satellite, but Maxar’s 1300-class spacecraft can support optical instruments with fine pointing, low-jitter, and high-fidelity sensor data as either a hosted sensor or a dedicated mission.

Maxar has previously demonstrated the capability to host optical instruments on the 1300-class through a long legacy of building NOAA’s GOES weather and communications constellation as well as numerous commercial and government programs.

Maxar is exploring how this mission could generate more data sources for its Earth Intelligence business. For example, TEMPO-derived data could serve as a source of “tipping and cueing” for future Earth observation missions, by identifying indicators of environmental impact.

Maxar engineers complete the post-delivery functional testing of the TEMPO instrument at Maxar’s satellite manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California.

From its geostationary orbit—a high Earth orbit that allows satellites to match Earth's rotation—TEMPO will form part of an air quality satellite "virtual constellation" that will track pollution around the Northern Hemisphere. Once complete, the constellation will also include South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS) and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-4 satellite.

A crew at Ball Aerospace makes final checks to the TEMPO satellite instrument prior to shipment. Credit: Ball Aerospace

A crew at Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, rolls the TEMPO satellite instrument onto a truck for shipment to Maxar’s satellite manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California. Credit: Ball Aerospace

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