NASA’s Aquarius mission launched to study Earth’s oceans salinity

June 11th, 2011 - 12:12 am ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Friday announced that its Aquarius mission was successfully launched in order to study Earth’s oceans salinity.

On Friday, an international satellite was launched carrying the NASA-built Aquarius instrument that will measure the saltiness of Earth’s oceans to advance understanding of the global water cycle and improve climate forecasts.

“Aquarius is a critical component of our Earth sciences work, and part of the next generation of space-based instruments that will take our knowledge of our home planet to new heights,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

At about 7:20 a.m. local time, the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory took off to space from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

The observatory has since separated from its rocket carrier and began activation procedures, establishing communications with ground controllers and unfurling its solar arrays.

Initial telemetry reports indicate that the SAC-D (Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas) observatory is in good condition. The observatory was designed as collaboration between NASA and Argentina’s space agency, Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE).

“The innovative scientists and engineers who contributed to this mission are part of the talented team that will help America win the future and make a positive impact across the globe,” added Garver.

The Aquarius mission will conduct NASA’s first space observations of the salinity at the ocean surface, a key missing variable in satellite studies of Earth. Variations in salinity influence ocean circulation, trace the path of freshwater around the planet and help drive Earth’s climate.

The Aquarius/SAC-D observatory also carries seven instruments that will monitor natural hazards and collect a broad range of environmental data. The mission also had collaboration from Brazil, Canada, France and Italy.

Aquarius will map the global open ocean once every seven days for at least three years with a resolution of 93 miles (150 kilometers) in order to show how ocean surface salinity changes each month, season and year.

It will be positioned at a near-polar orbit about 408 miles (657 kilometers) above Earth. Science operations will begin after the observatory’s instruments are checked out, a phase that may last up to 65 days.

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