Keeping watch over the planet
A stork flies over Egypt, while 3,000 kilometres away in Prague, a Czech biologist monitors the bird’s movements from the comfort of his office. At the same time in Los Angeles, an oceanographer uses her computer to track a powerful submarine current in Antarctica at a depth of 1,000 metres.
In both cases, these technical achievements are possible thanks to the Argos satellite-based location and data collection system, which enables scientists to gather information on any “object” equipped with a certified transmitter, anywhere in the world, in the oceans, deserts or polar regions.
Argos transmitters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on their purpose. Their messages are recorded by a constellation of satellites carrying Argos instruments, and then relayed to dedicated processing centres. This system, the only one of its kind in the world, has been operational since 1978, and was initiated jointly by France and the United States. The system is operated worldwide by CLS, a subsidiary of CNES, and Ifremer, the French institute of marine research and exploration.
While Argos transmitters have become known to the public through their use in tracking yacht races, their primary mission remains the collection of data for the scientific community. By measuring temperature, pressure, humidity and sea levels, Argos takes the pulse of the planet and its atmosphere. The system is also used with great success to track animals.
The first 3rd generation Argos instrument was launched on 19 October 2006 on a Metop spacecraft from Baïkonur, the second on 6 February 2009 on a NOAA spacecraft. A further 3 instruments will be placed in orbit by 2015. The decision to engage the development of the Argos-4 generation has just been confirmed by CNES and its partners.
|Initiator||CNES in 1978|
|Origin||definition of Eole and Sargos programmes in the 1970s|
|Status||currently in operation|
|Participants||France, United States, India and Europe (Eumetsat )|
|Objectives||to acquire in-situ measurements of the Earth’s environment|
Last updated: May 2011