Unlike most Earth-observation satellites, GRACE-FO won't "use imagers [to] collect light reflected from the surface or the atmosphere", said David Jarrett, GRACE-FO program executive, said at a news conference Monday (May 21).
SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, will use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch seven satellites on Tuesday: two state-of-the-art NASA satellites and five commercial communications satellites.
Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with five next-generation Iridium communications satellites and two U.S. The two satellites, about the size of a sports vehicle, will fly in tandem 137 miles apart in a 305-mile orbit around Earth's poles. (That mission was lost, but SpaceX was not to blame for the mishap.) Although the rocket stuck a flawless landing on its last mission, SpaceX does not plan to attempt a landing for this flight.
While SpaceX has previously recovered and reused the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage, the company won't be recycling that piece of equipment from this launch. The gravity produced by the Earth's mass includes a component contributed by water, regardless of what state it may be in, like vapor, solid or liquid.
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He said SpaceX had tried but failed to catch the payload fairing, a nose cone used to protect the rocket, as it plunged into the ocean.
To get these gravitational measurements, the two satellites will fly 220 kilometers (137 miles) apart, according to NASA.
The two satellites will replace the previous GRACE mission, which operated between 2002 and 2017.
The $521 million payload, called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO), was successfully deployed into its planned orbit some 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth about 10 minutes after liftoff. An additional six spares will remain on the ground until needed. Then the lower, leading satellite will be raised into the same orbit as the higher, trailing satellite. -German GRACE-Follow On research craft to study Earth's climate and water cycle.
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The GRACE-FO mission is a joint effort of NASA and GFZ. The satellites will be constantly measuring the distance between them by sending microwave signals back and forth.
In addition to the microwave ranging system also used by the original GRACE satellite, the GRACE-FO satellites will use a laser rangefinder to measure their separation.
NASA's share of the GRACE-FO mission cost is $430 million.
The GRACE-FO spacecraft are equipped with laser retroreflectors that allow ground stations to accurately measure their orbits, further improving the accuracy of the data.
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