Image courtesy of MethaneSAT

MethaneSAT, a groundbreaking satellite designed to detect methane emissions from oil and gas operations, was launched on March 4. The MethaneSAT satellite entered orbit after detaching from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, according to an announcement from

The satellite was developed by a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a U.S.-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group. The hope is that data from MethaneSAT will enable both companies and regulators to track emissions, and give major stakeholders—citizens, governments, investors and gas importers—free, real-time access to the data. 

“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 type of pollution [methane] on a global scale. MethaneSAT will show us the full scope of the opportunity by tracking emissions to their source.”

“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.”

Circling the earth 15 times a day, MethaneSAT will measure changes in methane concentrations as small as three parts per billion. High sensitivity, together with high resolution and a wide field of view, will enable MethaneSAT to paint a complete emissions picture.

In addition to identifying emission sources and rates for a given region, MethaneSAT will make it possible to compare emission loss rates across major oil and gas regions worldwide and track performance over time. Analytics developed specially for the mission will trace those emissions back to their sources within those target regions.

Interactive emissions data will be available to anyone directly from and on Google Earth Engine, a premier geospatial data platform used by over 100,000 experts and analysts.

MethaneSAT was made possible entirely by the support of EDF donors and their partnership with the government of New Zealand. Some of the largest contributors to MethaneSAT include the Bezos Earth Fund, Arnold Ventures, the Robertson Foundation and the TED Audacious Project.

“Methane emissions have been overlooked and hard to detect for far too long,” said Dr. Kelly Levin, chief of science, data and systems change at the Bezos Earth Fund. “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.”