Feeds

NASA's CO2-scan sat arrives at launch site

Two year atmo-mapping mission to get facts on carbon cycle

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA's first satellite dedicated to monitoring atmospheric carbon dioxide has arrived at its launch site. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory will take off from Vandenberg airforce base in January.

According to the space agency, the spacecraft will help to "solve some of the lingering mysteries in our understanding of Earth's carbon cycle and its primary atmospheric component, carbon dioxide".

For all that projected atmospheric carbon levels are now driving political and industrial agendas at the highest level - though cynics would suggest this has been driven by fuel prices and supply-security concerns as much as eco worries - it seems that the processes controlling CO2 in the air aren't well understood.

NASA says:

Scientists ... know from ground measurements that only 40 to 50 per cent of the carbon humans emit remains in Earth's atmosphere; the other 50 to 60 per cent, they believe, is absorbed by Earth's ocean and land plants.

Scientists do not know, however, precisely where the absorbed carbon dioxide from human emissions is stored ... or whether those processes will continue to work to limit increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the future as they do now. The observatory will provide the first complete picture of both human and natural sources of carbon dioxide emissions. It will show the places where they are absorbed, known as "sinks," at regional scales everywhere on Earth. Its data will reduce uncertainties in forecasts of how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere and improve the accuracy of global climate change predictions.

This will be achieved using "three first-of-a-kind high-resolution spectrometers" which will use reflected sunlight to analyse the atmosphere beneath them.

The OCO will take up a near-polar orbit at 438 miles up, so covering the entire Earth every 16 days. Its two year mission will see it mapping out carbon spouts and sinks worldwide, in company with NASA's "A-train" earth-observation sat convoy. This will permit cross-checks between the satellites and correlation of measurements, important when looking at a moving picture like the atmosphere.

For those interested, the satellite's launch won't itself involve any significant CO2 emissions. However, as it is to go up on an all-solid-fuel Taurus stack, there will be a good deal of aluminium oxide and hydrogen chloride. These chemicals are generally seen as rather nastier than ordinary old carbon dioxide, if not such a pressing global issue.

There's more on the OCO from NASA here. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms
Is that an ARMADILLO in your PANTS or are you just pleased to see me?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.