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The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), is NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to making space-based observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the principal human-produced driver of climate change. This new Earth science mission will have the accuracy, resolution and coverage needed to provide the first complete picture of the geographic distribution and seasonal variations of both human and natural sources of  carbon dioxide emissions and the places where they are being absorbed (sinks), at regional scales, mapping the globe once every 16 days.

Currently, about 380 out of every million molecules in the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.  Modeling studies show that the ability to estimate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to an accuracy of one to two parts per million (0.3 to 0.5 percent), on regional scales at monthly intervals, would dramatically improve our understanding of the natural processes and human activities that regulate the abundance and distribution of this important greenhouse gas. The observatory will use unique implementations of technologies and advanced analytical techniques to do just that.

Scientists will use data from the mission to make more reliable forecasts of future atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and how they may affect Earth’s climate. This exploratory science mission is designed to last at least two years, long enough to validate a novel, space-based measurement approach and analysis concept that could be
applied to future long-term, space-based carbon dioxide monitoring missions.

The observatory will fly at an altitude of 705 kilometers (438 miles), completing one near-polar Earth orbit every 98.8 minutes. The nearly north-south orbit track repeats every 16 days.

This artist's concept shows how CALIPSO and Cl...
Image via Wikipedia

It will fly in a loose formation with the other Earth-observing satellites of NASA’s Afternoon Constellation, or “A-Train,” each of which monitors various aspects of the same region of the atmosphere at about the same time. .

Flying as part of the A-Train , (NASA’s Aqua, CloudSat, Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (Calipso) and Aura spacecrafts), will complement the mission’s science return.

Launch: No earlier than February 23, 2009, at 1:53 a.m. PST (4:53 a.m. EST) from Launch Complex 576-E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

A secondary benefit to this mission is exact data, that will once and for all, put to rest the debate over humankind’s role in enhancing the greenhouse effect and contributing to overall global warming.

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13 Responses to “The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)”

  1. Says:

    The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) | Forced Green…

    The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), is NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to making space-based observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the principal human-produced driver of climate change….

  2. Alexander M Zoltai Says:

    Right up my alley!

    Being an Earth-Lover and a committed Space-Cadet I truly loved this post!!

    ~ Alex from Our Evolution

    Alexander M Zoltais last blog post..Gaza, Israel, and Justice

  3. PRand Says:

    impressed by how quickly nasa got something like this conceived, built, and launched. thanks for the find.

    PRands last blog post..Uzi-proof fashion.

  4. betchai Says:

    Wonderful, thanks for sharing, that’s a great introduction in space to monitor and study CO2 levels.

    betchais last blog post..Revisiting Piedras Pintadas

  5. Carol @ iPentimento | Genealogy and More Says:

    It might seem from the topic of my blog that I am stuck in the history of the past. Not so. I am space cadet too, and I am thrilled to see any progress in space that will help monitor anything. Great post. Thanks for adding me as a friend too. 🙂

    Carol @ iPentimento | Genealogy and Mores last blog post..Envelope Please!

  6. yanjiaren Says:

    This is another wonderful mix of nature and science and I learned a lot from your post. Thanks Linda, it’s great to have a Blogger like you in the Net!

    yanjiarens last blog post..Green Humor: GREEK NOVA Donkey Ad

  7. Russ Says:

    Thank you. This is great news! Aside from CO2 being a major contributor to global warming, every molecule created in the burning of fossil fuels in excess of what can be used by plant life also means one less molecule of oxygen to breath. I like oxygen.

    Russs last blog post..Smart Contraction

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