Satellite Technology Feature Article
NASA Aquarius/SAC-D Launch Postponed for a Day
By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor
NASA has postponed its Aquarius/SAC-D launch by a day, planning a launch attempt on Friday, June 10. The new launch time has been set to allow the launch time to review an “inconsistency” of the Delta II launch vehicle flight profile for wind conditions, according to NASA's press release.
The data are used to steer the Delta II through upper level winds. Weather forecast for June 10 shows a “100 percent chance” of favorable weather conditions at the 7:20 a.m. PDT launch window at NASA Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, where the launch will take place.
Built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California and the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD, the Aquarius/SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicacions Cientificas)mission is a collaboration between NASA and CONAE, Argentina's space agency to map the salinity at the ocean's surface. Obtaining this information will help scientists understand the water cycle and ocean circulation, providing insight on how the natural exchange of freshwater between the ocean, atmosphere, and sea ice affect ocean circulation, weather, and climate.
Aquarius/SAC-D will measure global ocean salinity for at least three years from a 408 mile high, sun-synchronous, near-polar orbit , covering the earth every 7 days. During its lifetime, monthly maps with a resolution of 93 miles will show how salinity changes from month-to-month, season-to-season, and year-to-year around the world. The data should help improve computer models used to forecast climate conditions, including short-term events such as El Nino and La Nina.
The primary instrument on Aquarius/SAC-D is a trio of passive microwave radiometers developed by NASA to measure salinity and an active scatterometer to measure the ocean waves that affect the salinity measurement. NASA brags that Aquarius is sensitive enough to detect salinity changes as small as about one-eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a gallon of water.
CONAE is providing the SAC-D spacecraft, optical camera, thermal camera with Canada, microwave radiometer, sensors from various Argentine institutions and the mission operations center. France and Italy also are contributing instruments. This will be the fourth collaborative mission between NASA and CONAE, with a relationship dating back to 1994.
NASA's part of the bill for the mission between design, development, and operations is $287 million. JPL will manage Aquarius through the missions commissioning phase and will archive mission data while Goddard will handle the mission's operational phase, and process Aquarius data.
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Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell