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article imageNASA successfully launches a carbon monitoring satellite

By Ryan Hite     Jul 2, 2014 in Science
NASA tried a second time to launch a satellite into orbit to study how the earth absorbs carbon dioxide, which has increased over time and has been the primary cause of global warming.
A rocket carrying a satellite lit up the pre-dawn skies Wednesday with a mission to track atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is the gas primarily contributing to global warming.
The Delta 2 rocket blasted off from California in the early morning and released NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite into low-Earth orbit 56 minutes after takeoff, bringing relief to many mission officials who lost a similar spacecraft five years before.
Power-supplying solar arrays were successfully deployed. Initial checks showed the spacecraft was healthy and two-way communications were established, according to officials.
NASA tried in 2009 to launch a similar satellite dedicated to studying carbon dioxide. A satellite plunged into the ocean off Antarctica after a hardware failure with the rocket.
After the loss, NASA spent several years and millions of dollars to build a near-identical twin satellite.
Like the original, the satellite is designed to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide from 438 miles above the Earth's surface. Its polar orbit will allow it to cover about 80 percent of the globe.
About 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released from factories and cars every year, with about half of it being sucked into trees and oceans.
The goal of the $468 million mission is to study the processes behind how the environment absorbs carbon dioxide on the planet over two years.
NASA spent more money on the new mission because it is using a more expensive rocket. Engineers had to replace obsolete satellite parts and that drove up the price tag as well.
"Seldom do we get a second chance to be able to do a mission like this but because of the importance of the mission to the nation we've been given this second chance to do the OCO-2 mission," said Geoff Yoder, a deputy associate administrator from NASA.
The satellite is about the size of a telephone booth with solar arrays spanning about 30 feet. The launch placed it into an initial orbit of about 429 miles high.
There will be a period of instrument checks to ensure the validity of observations initially before being put into place at its final orbit. Production of data is expected early next year.
More about carbon satellite, Carbon dioxide, Global warming, nasa satellite launch
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