Updated NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) not only managed to lift off today, it also achieved successful separation from its booster stack and got into orbit.
The satellite – which will study the absorption of sunlight by carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere – is the third attempt to get a CO2-measuring craft into space by the American space agency. The OCO-1 in 2009 and follow-up Glory in 2011 both failed when they weren’t able to complete their first stage separation.
NASA had to abandon the scheduled launch of the OCO-2 yesterday, when there were problems with the launchpad water flow.
The blast-off was particularly difficult to get right because US rocket boffins only had a 30-second window to get the sat into orbit to join the A-Train, a constellation of five international Earth-observing crafts that fly in close formation, constantly monitoring the planet.
OCO-2 is now the best carbon dioxide monitoring satellite in orbit by a long way, capable of taking up to 100,000 useful readings per day. The next best only returns around 500 measurements a day that are totally unimpeded by cloud cover.
Boffins hope that OCO-2’s data can offer clarity on just how much impact human activity has on carbon dioxide production and the processes the gas undergoes in the atmosphere, which will hopefully help lead to some answers on if and how we can do something about climate change. ®
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