Thursday, 2 May 2013

"Are Several of our Satellites Missing?"

Without information it is impossible to construct an argument...

Quote: "A new $273 million satellite designed to detect atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and in turn, aid in scientists’ understanding of the human impact on this atmospheric gas, has been lost in space.  It was launched on Tuesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
This catastrophic loss comes on the heels of another recent space disaster – a collision between Russian and US satellites miles above the earth on February 11th.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite didn’t reach orbit after its 1:51 a.m. local time launch because the “payload fairing didn’t separate, NASA said in a statement. The fairing is a protective cover that surrounds the top of the satellite during launch and then is intended to separate from the main vehicle so the satellite can detach from its rocket boosters and enter regular orbit.  For an unknown reason, the fairing failed to separate at the required time.  The added weight of the fairing remaining attached prevented the rocket from obtaining the necessary elevation to reach stable orbit.
The spacecraft did not reach orbit and landed in the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica, said John Brunschwyler, the program manager for the Taurus XL.
“If it is lost, that is disappointing because it was giving us novel information to help us move our understanding forward on global warming,” said Alan O’Neill, science director of the Reading, U.K.-based Centre for Earth Observation.
An artist's conception of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO).  (Credit: NASA)"
An artist's conception of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO). (Credit: NASA)
The lost satellite was NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas believed to have a contribution to changes in Earth’s climate.  It was hoped that this satellite would further refine scientists’ understanding of how much carbon dioxide is released by humans and how the atmosphere responds to this increase.
“The Orbiting Carbon Observatory’s carbon dioxide measurements will be pivotal in advancing our knowledge of virtually all Earth system land, atmosphere, and ocean processes,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. ”They will play crucial roles in refining our knowledge of climate forcings and Earth’s response processes.” Go to meteorologynews.com

Quote: "An anonymous reader writes with news that the European Space Agency has lost contact with its Envisat environmental satellite mere weeks after celebrating a full decade in orbit. Engineers have spent the last month trying to re-establish contact, and will continue to do so for another two months. "With ten sophisticated sensors, Envisat has observed and monitored Earth’s land, atmosphere, oceans and ice caps during its ten-year lifetime, delivering over a thousand terabytes of data. An estimated 2500 scientific publications so far have been based on this information, furthering our knowledge of the planet." The ESA was hoping Envisat would stay operational for another two years, until Sentinel satellites from the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative became operational."....and....
"New submitter crazyjj writes "As reported in Wired, a recent National Research Council report indicates a growing concern for NASA, the NOAA, and USGS. While there are currently 22 Earth-observing satellites in orbit, this number is expected to drop to as low as six by the year 2020. The U.S. relies on this network of satellites for weather forecasting, climate change data, and important geologic and oceanographic information. As with most things space and NASA these days, the root cause is funding cuts. The program to maintain this network was funded at $2 billion as recently as 2002, but has since been scaled back to a current funding level of $1.3 billion, with only two replacement satellites having definite launch dates."" Go to science.slashdot.org

Quote: "A NASA satellite that aimed to study the impact of aerosols on climate plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, delivering a $424-million blow to the US space agency.
The failure of the Glory satellite launch was the second bungle for NASA climate science efforts in two years, and closely resembled a botched carbon satellite launch involving the same company, Orbital Sciences Corp., in 2009.
Glory could not reach orbit after its protective clamshell-like nose cone cover failed to detach after launch, engineers said as they struggled to figure out why the expensive technology collapse had happened yet again.
"We are all pretty devastated," said Ron Grabe, executive vice president and general manager of the Virginia-based Orbital's Launch Systems Group, which made both the rocket and satellite.
Grabe appeared at a press conference Friday along with other grim-faced executives and NASA experts as the US space agency announced the creation of a "Mishap Investigation Board to evaluate the cause of the failure."
"We encountered no anomalies" early on, NASA launch director Omar Baez told reporters.
But a few minutes into the flight, it became apparent that separation of the cover, known as a fairing, had not occurred.
"We didn't see the indication of fairing separation," said Baez. "We failed to make orbit and all indications are that the satellite and rocket are in the southern Pacific Ocean somewhere."
The launch of the satellite -- which was to measure aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere to help clarify their impact on climate -- was delayed on February 23 after an unexpected ground control reading 15 minutes before liftoff.
On Friday it blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a four stage Taurus-XL rocket at 2:09 am (1009 GMT), but NASA soon reported that it was slowing down and would not reach orbit.
A similar mishap took place in February 2009, when a satellite designed to monitor global carbon dioxide emissions plummeted into the ocean near Antarctica after failing to reach orbit, in a setback for climate science.
There too, a fatal mission error occurred minutes after liftoff when the fairing, which protects the satellite during its ascent, failed to separate properly.
But experts said it was too early to know if the Glory failed for the exact same reason, and that more analysis was needed.
"Right now we are crunching the data but there is not enough data that has been processed to tell any more than the fairing did not deploy," said Rick Straka, deputy general manager at Orbital.
Grabe said engineers had done extensive research on the previous failure, and went so far as to completely change out the initiation system and replace it with another one that had flown successfully three times.
"So we really went into this flight feeling confident that we had nailed the fairing issue," said Grabe.
"There is a great deal of emotional investment on the part of all the players on any spaceflight but that is probably doubly so on a return-to-flight effort like this one," he said.
"We will recover. The team will bounce back. They are all professionals and Orbital Sciences will bounce back with the Taurus vehicle," said Grabe.
The satellite itself weighed 1,164 pounds (528 kilograms), and carried two main instruments, the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor and the Total Irradiance Monitor which was to be directed at the Sun.
Glory was supposed to chart an orbital course 340 nautical miles (630 kilometers) above the Earth, before employing an on-board propulsion system to raise its orbit to 438 nautical miles (811 kilometers).
It was then supposed to join what is known as the "A-Train" of Earth-observing satellites sent up by NASA.
The five already there -- Aqua, Cloudsat, Calipso, Parasol and Aura -- fly in formation, crossing the equator every afternoon." Go to: http://phys.org/news/2011-03-earth-satellite-nasa.html

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