Third time is a charm, people say, and they are not wrong. After two failed attempts, a devastating one back in 2009, and another just a day before the actual take-off, NASA finally sent to space the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) Satellite. The mission will provide frequent measurements of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere and will identify sources and detect locations, where large amounts of carbon are emitted or absorbed.
Such valuable information will not only allow scientists to gather data from impossible to access areas, but it will also help them improve on their current understanding and knowledge of the carbon cycle.
The hardware failure that resulted in the destruction of the first OCO satellite in 2009, as well as the technical error that occurred just this Tuesday, did not stop NASA from accomplishing their mission. The early morning of Wednesday, 2nd of July, seem to have been the lucky time for the Delta rocket, carrying the satellite, to take off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite is expected to remain in the orbit for at least two years, sending continuous data on carbon levels.
The launch comes just in time as scientists are struggling more than ever to acquire data, which can help them improve on their current models and predictions. The levels of carbon dioxide from emissions has now gone beyond alarming levels, meaning that such powerful tool is likely to provide the solution that everyone has been waiting for for so long.
The satellites carries three spectrometers on board, which will be measuring wavelength bands where carbon absorbs. Based on the levels of absorption, data analysts will be able to detect the presence of different gases, and gather data over time, which will help them establish specific patterns and monitoring practices. In order to verify the measurements, spectrometers on the ground at various locations, will be detecting precise concentrations, that will then be compared to the satellite measurements.
The mission holds great potential and a lot of promise for the future of scientific research. Hopefully, the first studies based on data from OCO-2, will appear very soon.
Image (c) NASA