SURFsara supports SRON analysing Tropomi satellite data

13 OCT 2017

The European Sentinel-5P satellite was successfully launched into orbit today from Plesetsk in Siberia. Tropomi is a Dutch instrument on board the satellite that will survey global air quality and the distribution of greenhouse gases with unprecedented precision.

Copyright ESA/ATG medialab

Space research institute SRON and KNMI are responsible for the scientific management of the instrument. SRON will be cooperating closely with SURFsara to successfully analyse and quickly process the scientific data. 

High tech equipment from the Netherlands

The launch of the Sentinel-5P is part of the Copernicus programme, for which the European Space Agency (ESA) also launched 5 other Sentinel satellites into orbit on behalf of the European Commission. Tropomi stands for Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument and contains a great deal of high tech equipment from the Netherlands, that will measure gases such as methane and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.

Entire Earth covered in one day

Coordinated by researcher Jochen Landgraf, SRON has been developing algorithms for methane and carbon monoxide for the Tropomi data for more than 8 years: "The satellite completes 15 orbits a day at a height of about 800 km. On each orbit, Tropomi measures a strip about 2,500 km wide, which means that the entire Earth is covered in just one day. The resolution of the previous European satellite, Sciamachy, was 120 x 30 km. Now we are measuring areas of 7 x 7 km, which means we can observe far better the changes in the atmosphere.

Scientific interpretation of the data

Tropomi will soon be providing huge amounts of data about the Earth's atmosphere: 40 Gigabyte for each orbit. SRON has started to collaborate with SURFsara on the scientific interpretation of the data. Landgraf: "During the initial operational phase, you really need to familiarise yourself with a satellite. They sometimes make mistakes or some unexpected, external factors may not have been taken into account. We are in a process of constantly needing to adjust and fine-tune our algorithms. We will be storing and processing hundreds of terabytes, so we will need exceptional capacity and processing power. That is why we got in touch with SURFsara. We also wanted to work with SURFsara to extract as much scientific information from the data as possible. This includes additional elements such as vapour isotopes." 


Advisors Natalie Danezi and Coen Schrijvers are responsible for services to projects requiring large-scale data processing, and were instantly excited when SRON contacted SURFsara for this assignment: "Our current high-throughput data processing service – a Grid facility that is part of the (inter)national e-infrastructure – is highly suitable for projects that are looking to build their own production platform on top of a powerful data processing facility. The scalable setup of our service is designed for fast throughput and processing of large structured datasets, and can provide uninterrupted data processing at speeds of tens of gigabytes per second." 


"We also have a lot of experience with the logistics of this form of data processing. Not only is support required for the use of the underlying computer systems, but the real complexity is usually located in the specific scenario and the scale of the problem. Helped by our advice, the SRON scientists were able to build a solid processing framework around their applications."

First light

If everything goes according to plan, we should know whether the Tropomi launch was successful and the instrument is actually producing data ('first light') on 18 November.

Copyright ESA/ATG medialab

About SRON

SRON’s mission is to bring about breakthroughs in international research from space. To do so, the institute develops pioneering technology and advanced space instruments which it deploys to pursue astrophysical, earth-based and exoplanetary research. As a national institute of expertise, SRON advises the Dutch government and coordinates national contributions to international space missions. SRON promotes space science applications in society.

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About Tropomi

Tropomi is a satellite instrument that was made in the Netherlands to research air quality more accurately than ever before. It is the only instrument on board the Sentinel-5 precursor satellite. This satellite is part of the European Copernicus Earth observation programme. It is the result of collaboration between Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands, KNMI, SRON and TNO, as commissioned by NSO and ESA. Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands is the principal contractor for the instrument's construction. KNMI and SRON are responsible for the scientific management. TROPOMI is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment.

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Latest modifications 03 Jan 2018