(NASA HQ News) NASA launches second small climate satellite to study Earth’s poles

Logo (AGENPARL) – Rome, 5 Giugno 2024

(AGENPARL) – May 5, 2024 NASA launches second small climate satellite to study Earth’s poles
JUNE 5, 2024
RELEASE 24-077
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, New Zealand, on June 5, 2024 at 11:15 PM NZST, carrying a small satellite for NASA’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission ).
The second of NASA’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) two satellites communicates with ground controllers after launch at 3:15 PM NZST, Wednesday (11:15 PM EDT, June 4). Data from these two shoebox-sized cube satellites, or CubeSats, will better predict how Earth’s ice, seas and weather will change in a warming world – and provide information to help humanity thrive on our changing planet .
The CubeSat was launched on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, New Zealand, and follows the May 25 launch of the first PREFIRE CubeSat. After a 30-day checkout period, during which engineers and scientists confirm that both CubeSats are operating normally, the mission is expected to last ten months.
“By helping to clarify the role that Earth’s polar regions play in regulating our planet’s energy budget, the PREFIRE mission will ultimately help improve climate and ice models,” said Amanda Whitehurst, PREFIRE program director, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Improved models will benefit humanity by giving us a better idea of ​​how our climate and weather patterns will change in the coming years.”
Building on NASA’s unique vantage point in space, PREFIRE will help understand the balance between the sun’s incoming heat energy and the outgoing heat given off at Earth’s poles. The Arctic and Antarctica act much like the radiator in a car engine, throwing much of the heat initially absorbed in the tropics back into space. Most of that heat is emitted as far-infrared radiation. The water vapor content of the atmosphere, along with the presence, structure and composition of clouds, influences the amount of radiation escaping into space from the poles.
The PREFIRE mission will provide researchers with information about where and when far-infrared energy radiates into space from the Arctic and Antarctic environments. The mission will also use its two CubeSats in asynchronous, near-polar orbits to study how relatively short-lived phenomena such as cloud formation, moisture changes and ice sheet melting affect far-infrared emissions over time. The two satellites pass over the same part of the Earth at different times of the day, giving researchers information about changing conditions.
“Climate change is changing our environment and atmosphere in ways we need to prepare for,” said Brian Drouin, PREFIRE deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “This mission will give us new measurements of the far-infrared wavelengths emitted from Earth’s poles, which we can use to improve climate and weather models and help people around the world cope with the impacts of climate change. ”
Each CubeSat carries an instrument called a thermal infrared spectrometer, which uses specially shaped mirrors and sensors to measure infrared wavelengths. To make the instruments as small as possible to fit on CubeSats, some parts had to be reduced in size and other components had to be scaled up.
“Equipped with advanced infrared sensors that are more sensitive than any comparable instrument, the PREFIRE CubeSats will help us better understand Earth’s polar regions and improve our climate models,” said Laurie Leshin, director of NASA JPL. “Their observations will lead to more accurate predictions of sea level rise, weather patterns and changes in snow and ice cover, helping us meet the challenges of a warming world.”
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in collaboration with NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program, provides the launch service as part of the agency’s Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract.
The PREFIRE mission was jointly developed by NASA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. NASA JPL manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate and provided the spectrometers. Blue Canyon Technologies built the CubeSats and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will process the data the instruments collect. The launch services provider is Rocket Lab USA Inc. from Long Beach, California.
For more information about PREFIRE, visit:
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