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Better Satellite World: This Planet's on Fire

Among the challenges we all face this year, just as last year, is climate change. At SSPI, we continue to ask: “What is the satellite industry doing to help scientists, businesses, governments and individuals shape a healthier, healed climate and a better world?”

This Planet’s on Fire is the podcast series of our Climate Sense campaign, which delves into many issues involved surrounding our planet’s changing climate and the role satellites play in helping to mitigate these issues or provide information for future solutions. Click here to learn more about the Climate Sense campaign.

Episode 1: Climate Change & Satellites - How Can We Help?

In this first episode of This Planet’s on Fire, we hear an overview of what the satellite industry has done and is currently doing in the fight against climate change. Can we engineer our way out of this crisis? Probably not. But what we are doing as a technology and an industry is helping people realize the steps that need to be taken. NASA Division Director of the Earth Science Division Dr. Karen St. Germain and GSOA Secretary General Aarti Holla-Maini join SSPI’s Lou Zacharilla to bring a global perspective to this issue.

Dr. Karen St. Germain is the Division Director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, where she manages the entire Earth Science portfolio. She provides executive leadership, strategic direction, and overall management for the entire agency’s Earth Science portfolio, from technology development, applied science, research, mission implementation and operation.

Prior to coming to NASA, Dr. St. Germain was the Deputy Assistant Administrator, Systems (DAAS), for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. She guided the ongoing development and deployment of NOAA’s two major satellite programs (the Joint Polar Satellite System and Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite – R series), the COSMIC-2 mission, and the Space Weather Follow-On. She also led the development of the next-generation capabilities that will replenish and augment these systems in the future. Dr. St. Germain has had a distinguished career serving her country through space-related offices and transformative endeavors.

Aarti Holla-Maini is the Secretary General of the EMEA Satellite Operators Association (ESOA), which was recently renamed the Global Satellite Operators’ Association (GSOA). The Association is structured to drive industry leadership in innovation, connectivity and the need to bring sustainability to space.

Before joining the ESOA in 2004, Aarti served as Business Development Manager for many years at Airbus Defence and Space. She has a notable history of success in working directly with CEOs and heads of international organizations concerned with the satellite, space and telecommunications industry.

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Episode 2: Methane, the Low-Hanging Fruit

In this second episode of This Planet’s on Fire, we hear from Dr. Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Dr. Hamburg joins SSPI’s Lou Zacharilla to talk about MethaneSAT, which locates and measures methane emissions from oil and gas operations around the world with precision and at a scale never achieved, providing valuable data for making decisions on climate change.

MethaneSAT will provide regular monitoring of regions accounting for more than 80% of global oil and gas production, identifying not only the location but also quantifying the emissions rate with unprecedented precision — giving MethaneSAT the ability to monitor changes in total emissions over time. MethaneSAT will also be able to measure methane from industrial agriculture and other sources. Learn more at

Dr. Steven Hamburg is Chief Scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. In his role at EDF, Steven works to ensure that EDF’s advocacy is based on the best available science. He coordinates studies on methane emissions from the global natural gas supply chain as Chief Scientific Officer of the International Methane Studies, which is part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition/UN Environment. He also co-chairs the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative – a joint project of Royal Society, The World Academy of Science and EDF – and serves on the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Division on Earth and Life Sciences Advisory Board as well as other university and government advisory boards.

Prior to joining EDF, Steve spent 25 years on the faculties of Brown University and the University of Kansas where he served in numerous administrative positions in addition to his teaching and research. He has served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was recognized as one of the scientists contributing to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He has also been awarded the US Environmental Protection Agency Merit Award – region 1 twice. He has published more than 100 scholarly papers on biogeochemistry, climate change impacts on forests, carbon accounting and methane emissions. Steve completed his undergraduate degree at Vassar College and his MFS and PhD at Yale University in Ecosystem Ecology. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University and a Bullard Fellow at Harvard University.

This podcast originally aired in October 2020 as part of the Risk, Season 1 Better Satellite World podcast series.

Episode 3: Agriculture - How at Risk Are We?

In this third episode of This Planet’s on Fire, we hear from Wade Barnes, co-founder and CEO of Farmers Edge; Prateep Basu, CEO of SatSure (a Better Satellite World Award recipient in 2020); and Sanjay Wagle, co-founder and Managing Director of The Lightsmith Group. Wade, Prateep and Sanjay join SSPI’s Lou Zacharilla to talk about the major risks in agriculture today, business models and innovations that use satellite-based information to transform agricultural practices and the impacts of climate change on agriculture and investment.

Wade Barnes’s roots began in rural Manitoba, where his passion for agriculture started at an early age. He has a strong drive to bridge the gap between technology and agronomy; the motivating force behind starting Farmers Edge™. Farmers Edge, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is the world’s most respected leader in digital agriculture and revolutionized modern agriculture through integrated, AI-driven technologies and a platform that supports growers around the world. Wade is a strong advocate for the industry with a desire to assist growers across the world to improve their farming practices, increase profits and create more efficient cropping systems. He is an industry leader winning Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) of the Year and is recognized as one of the foremost agronomists in Western Canada. Wade is an inspiring speaker presenting at events across Canada and globally as an expert on the impact of technology on agribusiness and particularly the utilization of Variable Rate Technology by growers, investors and industry players. Some of his speaking engagements include Master Seeders, Global AgInvesting Conferences and TedX. Wade previously appeared in another Better Satellite World podcast: The Intersection of Satellites and Agronomy.

Prateep Basu is the co-founder and CEO of SatSure AG. He co-founded SatSure in 2017 and has served first as Global Head of Strategy and Partnerships and then as CEO for the past 2.5 years. SatSure AG is a DeepTech space applications startup that provides spatial decision intelligence to banking and insurance clients around the world. Their proprietary platform SatSure SPARTA uses satellite imagery, IoT and weather data among others, analysed using various Artificial Intelligence algorithms, to generate usable data insights for banking customers to help them better manage their agriculture portfolios and reduce the non-performing assets through efficient loan recoveries, increase their lending and financial inclusion mandate by adding new customers, planning their market expansion as well as bundling insurance products to protect their portfolio from climate change effects. Prateep is also a Board Member for Nodd App. Before co-founding SatSure, he served as an analyst at Northern Sky Research and as a scientist at ISRO. Prateep is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, the International Space University and Stanford University. He accepted a Better Satellite World Award on behalf of SatSure at the 2020 Better Satellite World Awards Celebration. Learn more about SatSure.

Sanjay J. Wagle is the co-founder and Managing Director of the Lightsmith Group. His investment experience includes eight years in venture capital and growth equity. He was the first Principal in the CleanTech Group at VantagePoint Capital Partners, which invested over $1 billion in 25 companies, including Tesla Motors, in sectors such as solar, storage, smart grid, green building, water and sustainable agriculture. Earlier in his career, Sanjay served as an Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation, where he led financings of private sector power and water infrastructure projects in developing countries. He has served in senior executive roles with several sustainable tech companies and co-led the launch of a new solar business: Soligent, the largest U.S. solar distributor, and of TerraVia, a biotech company converting plant-based feedstocks into tailored, high-value food oils. Sanjay also served as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama Administration, where he oversaw the implementation of $15 billion in programs for clean energy and climate. He holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley. Sanjay recently appeared in the Climate Sense edition of the New York Space Business Roundtable: Satellites Boosting Sustainable Technologies.