Transportation

SpaceX launches climate observation satellite for NASA

AP Photo/John Raoux
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol Cloud Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. The spacecraft is equipped with instruments to assess the health of the oceans by measuring the distribution of phytoplankton, tiny plants and algae.

NASA launched a new climate observation satellite, packed with cutting-edge technology to gather information on Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, on a SpaceX launch system in early Thursday morning.

The Plankton, Aerosol, Climate, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite took off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 system from Cape Canaveral, Fla., just after 1:30 a.m. Thursday. NASA said the launch was successful, and the spacecraft is performing as expected.

“With this new addition to NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites, PACE will help us learn, like never before, how particles in our atmosphere and our oceans can identify key factors impacting global warming,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “Missions like this are supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate agenda and helping us answer urgent questions about our changing climate.”

The satellite’s three-year mission will see it orbit Earth about 420 miles outside the atmosphere, using its observation instruments to take twice-daily snapshots of the planet’s oceans and atmosphere. 

One of its instruments, a hyperspectral ocean color instrument, will allow NASA to observe phytoplankton on a global scale for the first time. The agency said phytoplankton data will be key to predicting the health of global fish populations and help scientists understand how ocean ecosystems work on a larger scale.

A pair of polarimeter instruments will take measurements of the atmosphere, focusing on the impacts of sunlight on aerosolized particles. Those readings could increase the accuracy of air quality indications and insights into a changing climate, NASA said.

“After 20 years of thinking about this mission, it’s exhilarating to watch it finally realized and to witness its launch. I couldn’t be prouder or more appreciative of our PACE team,” NASA scientist Jeremy Werdell said. “The opportunities PACE will offer are so exciting, and we’re going to be able to use these incredible technologies in ways we haven’t yet anticipated. It’s truly a mission of discovery.”

Tags Bill Nelson Climate change nasa satellite SpaceX

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