Feb 16, 2011

NASA to launch Glory spacecraft on February 23

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WASHINGTON (BNS): NASA is all set to launch the Glory spacecraft and its Taurus XL launch vehicle under its first Launch Services Programme mission of 2011.

The spacecraft will lift off on February 23rd at 10:09 am (GMT) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Researchers have designed the Glory spacecraft to study the role of tiny particles known as aerosols, which are moving like a puzzle in the Earth’s climate. The spacecraft will also measure the sun’s impact on Earth’s conditions.

“The Glory satellite will help us understand the interaction of what’s called aerosols in our environment,” Chuong Nguyen, LSP’s mission integration manager for Glory said in a NASA press release.

The particles Glory will measure are small enough to float in the atmosphere and affect weather conditions by either absorbing sunlight or reflecting it. The particles can also affect rain patterns by seeding clouds and have other effects.

The Glory mission will also find out how long-lasting the effects for aerosols and how far their effects reach.

The Taurus XL rocket is a four-stage, solid-fueled rocket, which was last used in February 2009 to launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory. However, the payload fairing protecting the spacecraft during the early part of launch did not separate and the spacecraft never reached orbit.

Glory is launching from the California coast so it can go into a sun-synchronous orbit to scan almost the Earth’s entire surface as part of the “A-Train” of Earth-observation satellites already in orbit.

Together, Glory, the other spacecraft already in orbit and a future mission called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, the replacement for the original OCO, are expected to give the most complete picture to date of Earth’s climate and what makes it change.