from the Amazing-GRACE dept.
The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission team plans to switch to a backup system in the Microwave Instrument (MWI) on one of the twin spacecraft this month. Following the switch-over, GRACE-FO is expected to quickly resume science data collection.
A month after launching this past May, GRACE-FO produced its first preliminary gravity field map. The mission has not acquired science data since mid-July due to an anomaly with a component of the Microwave Instrument on one of the GRACE-FO spacecraft. The mission team is completing its investigation into the cause of the anomaly.
The primary science objective of GRACE-FO -- like its predecessor GRACE, which operated from 2002 to 2017 -- is to track how water is redistributed on Earth, by producing highly accurate, monthly gravity field maps. Measurements of changes in Earth's gravity field provide measurements of mass change and enable unique insights into Earth's changing climate, Earth system processes like droughts and sea level changes, and the impacts of human activities on water resources.
The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission has come to an end after more than 15 years in Earth orbit. The twin satellites chronicled the changes of the Earth's water, ice, and land since the spacecraft were launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 17, 2002, on a mission that was originally only slated to last some five years. More than a decade after that, GRACE was still beaming data back to Earth when a technical issued forced mission planners to close out the program.
Similar in some aspects to other missions launched, GRACE made precise measurements via the two spacecraft – GRACE-1 and GRACE-2 – that comprised the mission. For GRACE's overall scientific objectives to be achieved the two satellites both had to be fully functional. However, this past September (2017), GRACE-2 encountered a battery issue that made it clear by mid-October that the battery would not allow scientists to operate its science instruments and telemetry transmitter. It was decided to decommission GRACE-2 and, in so doing, end GRACE's scientific mission.
[...] GRACE helped detail how our home world's changing seasons move water, ice, and even land (as a result of surface water mass changes) across the planet's surface, providing researchers with a better understanding of what drives the motion of these substances. Earth's climate, earthquakes, and our own activities all play their part in shaping the face of our world and GRACE provided insights into the dynamics of this change.
Spaceflightnow reports on the next launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket (11 hours from the time this story posts):
Falcon 9 • Iridium Next 51-55 & GRACE Follow-On
Launch time: 1947:58 GMT (3:47:58 p.m. EDT; 12:47:58 p.m. PDT)
Launch site: SLC-4E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch five satellites for the Iridium next mobile communications fleet and two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE Follow-On) satellites for NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ). The Falcon 9 rocket will launch with a previously-flown first stage.
As it usually does, SpaceX has a live feed page up on YouTube which also notes:
A backup instantaneous launch opportunity is available on Wednesday, May 23 at 12:42 p.m. PDT, or 19:42 UTC.
[...] SpaceX will not attempt to recover Falcon 9's first stage after launch.