TEMPO instrument opening new era for pollution tracking in North America

The Ball Aerospace-built TEMPO instrument, when launched, will mark the start of a science mission that was made possible by the hard work and ingenuity of the Ball Aerospace team, along with collaboration across the industry and with federal partners at NASA and the Smithsonian.

The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in early April 2023. Ball Aerospace built the instrument, which is flying on a commercial satellite, for NASA.

18-06511-TEMPO-2.jpgOnce TEMPO settles into a geostationary orbit over North America, it will monitor pollution across the continental U.S. and parts of Mexico and Canada. Specifically, TEMPO will take measurements of pollutants like ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and atmospheric aerosols. TEMPO will be the space-based sibling to the Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer (GEMS), which was also built by Ball and launched in 2020. It’s currently taking measurements over Asia for the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.

Unlike previous low-earth orbit satellites, which take measurements once a day over a geographic area, TEMPO’s geostationary orbit will allow it to take measurements once an hour during daylight hours. Additionally, the instrument has a spatial resolution about the size of the National Mall. The resulting high spatial and temporal measurements of atmospheric composition are unprecedented. That means scientists will be able to determine where pollution is with increased precision and track how it is moving and transforming more frequently than ever before.

For the team at Ball Aerospace that worked on TEMPO, the launch of this world-class satellite will mark a major milestone that is paving the road to the future of pollution monitoring.

“It’s bittersweet, like your baby going off to college,” said TEMPO Program Manager Leslie Buchanan. “We put our heart and soul into making this interesting instrument survive and thrive in its mission and now we have to let it go. I know it will do us proud.”

The road to TEMPO and beyond

TEMPO is the first mission in NASA’s Earth Venture portfolio, which aims to fly satellites with modest and cost-capped budgets that also take useful and compelling Earth science measurements.

“The limited budgets helped the entire team focus on what was truly required to execute the science mission,” said Dennis Nicks, TEMPO Program Manager during instrument development. “There were plenty of challenges along the way, and for each one I can genuinely say that the entire TEMPO team rose to the occasion to put the mission first and make the right trades between cost, technical and schedule.”

TEMPO will join Ball Aerospace’s portfolio of climate monitoring satellites and programs, further cementing our role as an essential mission partner for customers who want to understand what’s happening in our planet’s climate system. Missions like TEMPO are helping humanity better understand the planet we live on, our impact on it and how we can better protect each other and our home planet.

“We’re so proud and grateful to the TEMPO team and their hard work,” said Civil Space Vice President Alberto Conti. “Not only did this mission showcase our ingenuity, expertise, resilience and creativity, but it is opening the door to the future of continuous pollution monitoring.”

Watch the video below to hear from more of the Ball Aerospace team members who’ve worked on the TEMPO program.