Earth Observation

Earth Observation is the use of satellite instruments to image our planet. TNO has a long legacy in developing instruments that monitor our planet’s atmosphere and allow us to mitigate the harmful impact of greenhouse gases and air pollution. In addition to this, we work on systems that monitor land and water and the calibration of a wider range of optical satellite instruments.

For more information about our activities on Earth Observation

Contact Anton Leemhuis


With a flight heritage of more than 35 years, TNO has a proven track record in building space instruments and components for ESA and NASA missions, and delivering breakthrough technologies and components that include spectrometers for earth observation. Dozens of satellites are equipped with systems that have been designed, built and tested by TNO. Our climatological models, which combine ground-based and space measurements, are used on a daily basis by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS). Through these activities, TNO helps to improve the quality of life on earth.


Copernicus Sentinel 5P – TROPOMI integration at TNO

TNO develops optical instruments for earth observation that provide global, independent measurements of air quality and greenhouse gases. Over the past 20 years, we have developed and realised optical systems that lie at the heart of well-known instruments used by international space agencies, such as GOME (ESA), SCIAMACHY (ESA/ ENVISAT) and OMI (NASA Aura).

The most recent example of this is TROPOMI (NSO/ ESA). This instrument became operational in 2017 and provides daily global measurements at a unique, high spatial resolution of 3.5 x 5 km2. TNO is currently involved in the development of the ESA/EC Sentinel 5. Utilising data from instruments such as TROPOMI, policymakers and industry can be provided with actionable information on emission reductions. In addition to this, TNO utilises its strong experience and technological position to design earth observation instruments and systems for monitoring water and land. A recent trend in earth observation is the increasing use of miniaturised instruments on small satellites, for which TNO offers innovative solutions.


Vacuum Calibration Facility (VCF)

TNO provides world-class calibration technologies, ranging from on-board calibration hardware for space instruments to the on-ground calibration of components (MERIS diffusers) or complete instruments (SCIAMACHY, OMI, GOME-2). We own unique facilities for calibration, such as the Absolute Radiometric Calibration Facility (ARCF) for diffuser measurements, the Vacuum Calibration Facility (VCF) and the soon-to-be-opened Calibration of Space Instruments (CSI) facility with two dedicated Thermal Vacuum Chambers.

Research on climate change and air pollution using satellites

The KNMI, TNO, SRON and Delft University of Technology will collaborate on research and technology development in the field of earth observation. The creation of the ‘Clear Air’ consortium *(link naar nieuwsbericht)* is intended to strengthen the prominent knowledge position of the Netherlands in using satellites to measure emissions and the composition of the atmosphere. Public authorities and companies will be able to use this knowledge to limit climate change, and improve both air quality and biodiversity.

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Learn more about the ' Clear Air' consortium


Knowledge institutes join forces to research climate change and air pollution using satellites

03 February 2022
The KNMI, TNO, SRON and Delft University of Technology will collaborate on research and technology development in the field of earth observation. The creation of the ‘Clear Air’ consortium is intended... Read more

Satellite reveals Australian coal mines emit much more methane than expected based on national reporting

29 November 2021
A Dutch group of scientists has used space instrument TROPOMI to calculate methane emissions from six Australian coal mines. Together these account for 7% of the national coal production, but turn out... Read more

Johns Hopkins APL and TNO sign Memorandum of Understanding on Collaborative Research and Technology Development

20 April 2021
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, and TNO have signed a memorandum of understanding, officially establishing a transatlantic collaboration between the two organizations... Read more

TNO delivers optical module for Sentinel-5 space mission

29 July 2020
Today TNO becomes the first party to deliver an optical module to German Airbus Defence & Space which is assembling the Sentinel-5 satellite instrument. The aim of Sentinel-5 is to accurately monitor... Read more

TNO has signed a contract with ESA to start Phase 2 of TOmCAT

02 July 2020
TNO has signed a contract with ESA to demonstrate cutting-edge optical communication technologies for future terabit-per-second telecom satellites. The TOmCAT project (Terabit Optical Communication Adaptive... Read more

TANGO satellite: monitoring greenhouse gas emissions

10 June 2020
The newly proposed TANGO satellite mission can contribute by offering global, independent monitoring of major sources of anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions. Read more
Space & Scientific Instrumentation