Researchers in the
The OCO-2 satellite is scheduled to launch at
The seven-foot-long OCO-2 spacecraft weighs 999 pounds and will circle Earth from pole-to-pole in approximately 98 minutes.
The satellite is expected to orbit the Earth for at least two years and will collect data at a higher resolution and with greater accuracy than has been previously possible. Currently, only the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT), launched by the Japanese space agency in 2009, is dedicated to collecting carbon dioxide data.
OCO-2 is equipped with an advanced sensor that can quantify the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide down to about 1 part per million. It also will measure the faint "glow" emitted by plants during photosynthesis, providing further information about the carbon cycle process.
The new satellite will provide much-needed information about CO2 sources and sinks, which will help scientists worldwide develop better climate models.
Roughly 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every year (the equivalent of every U.S. household putting out 40 bags of trash every week for a year). About half of that stays in the atmosphere and the other half is absorbed by Earth's oceans and plants.
What scientists want to understand - and what the data collected by OCO-2 will help inform - is where those sources and sinks of atmospheric CO2 are located on the planet. Determining where carbon dioxide is emitted and where it is taken up by Earth's natural ecosystem is a key "missing piece" of the climate story.
"This information plays a huge role in our ability to predict how our climate is changing," he said.
OCO-2 is a near replica (as some on the mission say, a "carbon copy") of a previous
A nearly-identical satellite, dubbed OCO, lifted off from Vandenburg in
"Many of us on that original team were very heartbroken but this successor to the OCO mission is in many ways superior to the original, and we're extremely excited to put years of theory into practice and push the envelope of scientific understanding," O'Dell said.
TNS 30TagarumaMar-140701-4783479 30TagarumaMar
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