SpaceX launches twin satellite for NASA, replacement of GRACE mission
New Delhi : SpaceX, the American Aerospace company has launched Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The previously flown rocket was lifted off at 3:47 PM ET (12:47 PM PT) yesterday. The vehicle is being loaded with five Iridum NEXT communication satellites and a pair of Earth-observing satellites called GRACE-FO.
GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On) is an Earth-observing satellites abroad Falcon 9 mission. It is a joint project between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences. They are the replacement for the original GRACE mission, which stopped to work in 2017, fifteen years after it launch.
Scientists have designed two satellites to work in harmony, 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 data collected by GRACE-FO's will be used is to try and manage the Earth's water resources more efficiently. "Water is critical to every aspect of life on Earth -- for health, for agriculture, for maintaining our way of living," Michael Watkins, the GRACE-FO science lead and director said in a statement. "You can't manage it well until you can measure it. GRACE-FO provides a unique way to measure water in many of its phases, allowing us to manage water resources more effectively."
GRACE-FO operates by using the weight of water to measure movement. The satellite can do this by keeping track of the changes in Earth's gravity field, which is caused by the movement of water, ice, land and the inner solid parts of the planet. This allows GRACE-FO to measure changes in deep water, which cannot be directly observed from space, by monitoring the surface of the planet.
The current GRACE-FO mission is planned to last five years, but observing the performance of original satellites, GRACE, which were scheduled for that same mission duration, it's likely this duo will be in orbit taking measurements for years to come.