NASA’s satellite mission to study ocean health, air quality and the effects of a changing climate to benefit humanity successfully launched into orbit at 1:33 a.m. EST on Thursday.
Known as PACE, the Plankton, Aerosol, Climate and Ocean Ecosystem satellite, launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. NASA confirmed the satellite’s signal acquisition about five minutes after launch and the spacecraft is performing as expected.
“Congratulations to the PACE team on a successful launch. With this new addition to NASA’s fleet of Earth observation satellites, PACE will help us learn, like never before, how particles in our atmosphere and oceans can identify key factors that impact global warming,” said the NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Missions like this support the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate agenda and help us answer pressing questions about our changing climate.”
From hundreds of kilometers above Earth, the PACE mission will study the impact of tiny, often invisible things: microscopic life in water and microscopic particles in the air.
The satellite’s hyperspectral ocean color instrument will allow researchers to measure oceans and other bodies of water across a spectrum of ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light. This will allow scientists to track the distribution of phytoplankton and, for the first time from space, identify which communities of these organisms are present on a daily global scale. Scientists and coastal resource managers can use the data to help forecast the health of fisheries, track harmful algal blooms, and identify changes in the marine environment.
The spacecraft also carries two polarimeter instruments, the Hyperangular Rainbow Polarimeter No. 2 and the Planetary Exploration Spectropolarimeter. These will detect how sunlight interacts with particles in the atmosphere, giving researchers new information about atmospheric aerosols and cloud properties, as well as air quality on local, regional and global scales.
By combining the instrument and polarimeters, PACE will provide information about ocean-atmosphere interactions, and how climate change affects these interactions.
“PACE’s observations and scientific research will profoundly advance our understanding of the ocean’s role in the climate cycle,” said Karen St. Germain, director of the Earth Sciences Division, Science Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters. NASA in Washington. “The value of PACE data skyrockets when we combine it with data and science from our Ocean and Surface Water Surveying mission. – marking the beginning of a new era of ocean sciences. As an open source science mission with early adopters ready to use their research and data, PACE will accelerate our understanding of the Earth system and help NASA deliver actionable science, data, and practical applications to help our coastal communities and industries address challenges. that evolve rapidly. .”
“It has been an honor to work with the PACE team and witness firsthand their dedication and tenacity in overcoming challenges, including the global pandemic, to make this observatory a reality,” said Marjorie Haskell, PACE program executive at NASA headquarters. “The passion and teamwork is only matched by the enthusiasm of the scientific community for the data this new satellite will provide.”
Earth’s oceans are responding to climate change in many ways: from rising sea levels to marine heat waves and loss of biodiversity. With PACE, researchers will be able to study the effects of climate change on phytoplankton, which play a key role in the global carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into their cellular material. These small organisms power larger aquatic and global ecosystems that provide critical resources for food security, recreation, and the economy.
“After 20 years of thinking about this mission, it is exciting to see it finally realized and witness its launch. I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful for our PACE team,” said Jeremy Werdell, PACE project scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The opportunities that PACE will offer are very exciting and we will be able to use these incredible technologies in ways we have not yet anticipated. “It is truly a mission of discovery.”
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, managed the mission’s launch services. The PACE mission is led by NASA Goddard, which also built and tested the spacecraft and the ocean color instrument. The Hyperangular Rainbow Polarimeter No. 2 was designed and built by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Spectropolarimeter for Planetary Exploration was developed and built by a Dutch consortium led by the Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Airbus Defense and Space. Netherlands.
For more information about PACE, visit:
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.