NASA satellite to track airborne carbon dioxide blasts off

2 Jul 2014

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launches with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite on board, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, this morning. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls

US space agency NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide raced into orbit at 5.56am EDT (10.56am Irish time) today from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket carried the satellite into space, and about 56 minutes after launch, the observatory separated from the rocket’s second stage into an initial 690-kilometre orbit, NASA said.

The spacecraft then performed a series of activation procedures, established communications with ground controllers, and rolled out its twin sets of solar arrays. Initial telemetry showed the spacecraft was in good shape, NASA added.

OCO-2 soon will begin a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth’s sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide and storage places for the greenhouse gas.

Scientists will use data from the mission to evaluate options to manage climate change.

OCO-2 will begin its data collection work in about 45 days.

Scientists expect to begin archiving calibrated mission data in about six months and plan to release their first initial estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations early next year, NASA said.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic