Monday, 18 February, 2019

Today’s SpaceX launch will help NASA monitor climate change

Today’s SpaceX launch will help NASA monitor climate change Today’s SpaceX launch will help NASA monitor climate change
Theresa Hayes | 26 May, 2018, 04:41

These two satellites are created to work in unison, using microwave signals to communicate in order to monitor the Earth's water cycle, ice sheets, crust and atmosphere to take a close look at our changing climate - both through natural processes as well as human-made ones.

The launch, scheduled for 1947 UTC (1247 PT) from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base today, will reuse the outdated Falcon block 4 rocket that flung mystery-sat Zuma into orbit.

The other is a pair of satellites called Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On, or GRACE-FO, which is a collaboration of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences. Two more launches will increase the number to 75, including 66 operational satellites and nine spares.

There was no attempt to recover it this time.

The satellite valued at about $528 million would be launched on the latest version of the Falcon 9 rocket from Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

GRACE-FO, a joint project between NASA and the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, will use twin satellites the size of small cars to map changes in Earth's water and ice, such as rising sea levels and melting of the polar ice caps.

Iridium and the GRACE-FO team originally planned to launch today's satellites on separate Dnepr missions, but had to find another ride when Russian Federation halted missions on the converted intercontinental ballistic missile. The satellites are scientific tools that will allow NASA to carefully detect differences in the gravitation pull of Earth over certain areas. This boat will seek to "catch" the fairing before it falls into the ocean.

Iridium used the extra lift capacity to launch three more Iridium Next satellites than it would have using the Dnepr vehicle. Billing it as one of the largest tech upgrades in history, CEO Matt Desch told investors last month that the majority of his network's traffic is now running on the 50 new satellites SpaceX has launched since January 2017. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself.

"GRACE was really a revolutionary mission for us understanding the water cycle and how the climate behaves", said Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during a pre-launch briefing May 21.

If you want to watch the launch live you can do so via the YouTube window embedded above.

In addition to the microwave ranging system also used by the original GRACE satellite, the GRACE-FO satellites will use a laser rangefinder to measure their separation.

NASA has spent $430 million on the mission, and Germany has spent about $91 million.