GRACE mission comes to an end

WASHINGTON — An Earth science mission launched greater than 15 years in the past has lastly come to an finish, barely sooner than beforehand anticipated, NASA introduced Oct. 27.

In a press release, NASA mentioned the Gravity Restoration and Local weather Experiment (GRACE) mission, carried out in cooperation with the German area company DLR, had ended science operations after the retirement of one in every of its twin spacecraft.

In September, the companies mentioned they anticipated to retire the GRACE-2 spacecraft in early November after a last science cross. The spacecraft had been experiencing issues due to the failure of a number of battery cells, which triggered a lack of contact with the spacecraft in early September.

Nonetheless, NASA mentioned in an Oct. 27 assertion that “it turned obvious by mid-October that GRACE-2’s remaining battery capability wouldn’t be adequate to function its science devices and telemetry transmitter. Consequently, the choice was made to decommission the GRACE-2 satellite tv for pc and finish GRACE’s science mission.”

GRACE-2 is anticipated to reenter in December of January. GRACE-1, whose batteries stay wholesome, will function for the rest of the yr to gather calibration information. It’ll reenter in early 2018.

“GRACE-1’s remaining gasoline might be used to finish beforehand deliberate maneuvers to calibrate and characterize its accelerometer to enhance the ultimate scientific return and insights from the 15-year GRACE file,” Carmen Boening, GRACE mission science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mentioned in a press release.

NASA and DLR launched the 2 GRACE spacecraft in March 2002 for what was initially deliberate to be a five-year mission. Scientists use measurements of very small adjustments within the separation of the 2 satellites in low Earth orbit to calculate native adjustments in gravitational area brought on by mass variations within the Earth. These measurements can, in flip, be used to trace motions of water across the Earth brought on by seasonal patterns and local weather processes.

“Utilizing cutting-edge expertise to make exquisitely exact distance measurements, GRACE improved our scientific understanding of our advanced house planet, whereas on the identical time offering data — corresponding to measurements associated to floor water, drought and aquifer water storage adjustments worldwide — that was used within the U.S. and internationally to enhance the accuracy of environmental monitoring and forecasts,” mentioned Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth science division, in a press release.

A successor mission, known as GRACE Observe-On, has been developed by NASA and the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam German Analysis Centre for Geosciences. The 2 spacecraft will launch in early 2018 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 on a mission shared with 5 Iridium Subsequent satellites.

“All the mission crew was artistic and profitable in its actually heroic efforts over the previous few years, extending the science return of the mission to assist reduce the hole between GRACE and its successor mission,” mentioned Mike Watkins, director of JPL, in a press release.

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