NASA Launches Satellite to Monitor Carbon Dioxide

April 4, 2017 – 03:39 am
A new communication satellite Humanity is primarily responsible for this increase, researchers say. The species pumps 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, chiefly by burning fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline; the planet's natural sinks remove just 20 billion tons annually, on average.

Six weeks or so from now, OCO-2 will maneuver into a polar orbit 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth, joining five other Earth-observation satellites in the A-Train constellation. ("A" is short for "afternoon, " since these spacecraft cross the equator going north at about 1:30 p.m. local time every day.)

The new satellite will then begin using its single scientific instrument, a grading spectrometer, to measure carbon dioxide levels with an anticipated precision of 1 part per million, NASA officials have said. The spacecraft will zoom over the same swathe of Earth once every 16 days, allowing researchers to track changes in CO2 concentration over a variety of timescales.

The Delta 2 rocket carrying NASA's OCO-2 spacecraft stands on the launch pad on July 2, 2014.

Credit: NASA TV

"Ultimately, scientists predict that looking at these changes over time will give us patterns that are weeks or months or years long [and] that will help them to unravel the mysteries of the carbon cycle, " Edwards said.

The $465-million mission has a nominal lifetime of two years, but the spacecraft has enough fuel to keep operating for much longer than that, OCO-2 team members have said.


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