Monitoring the Environment with Argos
Positioning Capability tracks ocean debris and wildlife like the Manta Ray
May 23, 2012
Argos Platforms Around the World[Click image to enlarge]
What do the following have in common: Drifting buoys and tsunami debris in the Pacific Ocean, manta rays off the coast of Mexico, and weather observations in the Antarctic? These various environmental platforms transmit data signals that are all tracked by Argos instruments on board NOAA polar-orbiting satellites.
The Argos Data Collection and location System (Argos DCS) is a global data collection relay system which has operated for over three decades and is administered under a joint agreement between NOAA and the French Space Agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES).
The system consists of in-situ data collection platforms equipped with sensors and transmitters and the Argos instrument aboard NOAA and EUMETSAT polar-orbiting satellites. The global environmental data sets relayed through Argos are collected at telemetry ground stations in Alaska, Virginia, Norway, and the Antarctic; and pre-processed by the Office of Satellite and Product Operations (OSPO) in Suitland, Maryland. Two CNES subsidiary companies, Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS) in Toulouse, France and CLS America in Lanham, Maryland process the environmental data and deliver it to the end users, who must be Government or Non-Profit agencies, or have a Government interest if non-Government.
Flying the Argos system aboard polar-orbiting satellites provides worldwide coverage. Additionally, incorporating the Argos instrument on a moving satellite allows for locating an in-situ platform using Doppler shift calculations. This positioning capability enables numerous applications; for example, tracking the locations of drifting ocean buoys and studying wildlife migration paths.
Argos DCS use is currently as extensive and diverse as it has ever been with over 21,000 active platforms around the world (see Figure 1). The constellation is robust with operational instruments on a total of six satellites (five NOAA and one EUMETSAT) as of mid-2012. Additional launches are planned, beginning with Metop-B (by EUMETSAT) and SARAL (a French-Indian collaboration), both by the end of 2012. Argos instruments are also planned for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and EUMETSAT's Post-EPS through the next two decades.
Argos has attracted recent attention in the media for several interesting applications: