May 22, 2014

NASA’s OCO-2 satellite will monitor and record sources and sinks for CO2 on Earth.

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(May 21, 2014) NASA’s OCO-2 satellite will monitor and record sources and sinks for CO2 on Earth.

To get a better idea of where CO2 is emitted and absorbed on Earth, scientists and engineers at NASA have rebuilt the OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) that was lost on launch in February 2009 due to a failure of the payload fairing. The new satellite, the OCO-2, is scheduled to be sent into orbit July 1 of this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. To save money and stay on schedule, NASA was directed “to duplicate the original OCO design using identical hardware, drawings, documents, procedures, and software wherever possible and practical.”

But there will be at least one change. A Delta II rocket rather than a Taurus rocket will transport the OCO-2 into its initial orbit 395 miles above the Earth. The satellite will then fire its four hydrazine-fueled thrusters to take it up and maneuver into position at the head of the A-Train (see Here comes the A-Train) in a sun-synchronous polar orbit 438 miles above the Earth. The spacecraft will circle the Earth every 98.8 min, crossing the equator at 13:15 (local time), and repeat its pattern every 16 days, letting it cover the entire surface of the Earth.

The spacecraft’s thrusters will use what’s left of the 99 lb of hydrazine to maintain OCO-2’s position leading the A Train over the course of its two-year mission while saving some fuel to deorbit at the end of its usefulness.

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