September 14, 2016

French-German space cooperation - CNES and DLR sign MERLIN cooperation agreement

In the presence of Thierry Mandon, Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, and Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace and Information Technology Policy, CNES and its German counterpart DLR signed on Wednesday 14 September in Berlin a cooperation agreement to design, build and operate the French-German MERLIN satellite devoted to measuring concentrations of atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The agreement was signed by CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and Dr Gerd Gruppe, Director General of DLR. MERLIN (Methane Remote sensing LIdar missioN) is set to measure concentrations of methane, the second most prolific greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere after carbon dioxide, with unprecedented precision. MERLIN will be launched in 2021 for a mission planned to last at least three years.

MERLIN is built around the new Myriade Evolutions spacecraft bus developed by CNES in partnership with French industry. The payload being developed and built in Germany for DLR with funding from BMWi is an active lidar (LIght Detection And Ranging) instrument. Using a laser, the lidar is able to acquire highly precise day/night measurements of atmospheric methane concentration at all latitudes. Excess methane in the atmosphere is the second largest contributor to global warming, just behind carbon gas. While rising levels of atmospheric carbon are largely due to burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, methane is emitted mainly from biogenic sources such as wetlands, farming, livestock (ruminants) and industry.

The MERLIN project conducted in partnership with a broad range of German and French research institutes will enable major advances in climate and environmental science.

After the signature, Thierry Mandon and Brigitte Zypries stated: "With MERLIN, France and Germany are making a significant contribution to enhancing our understanding of climate change. Space missions such as this help us to gain deeper insights into the mechanisms that influence the Earth's climate. It is therefore also an essential component for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement."

Jean-Yves Le Gall and Gerd Gruppe added: "Effective measures for climate protection must address methane. Precise and consistent measurements from all over the world are needed. This can only be achieved with a satellite. With MERLIN, France and Germany are pursuing a common goal. To achieve this, France is contributing the satellite bus and Germany an innovative space laser that is a major technological challenge.”

Pascale Bresson    Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 75 39
Julien Watelet    Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 78 37