On Tuesday afternoon, SpaceX launches twin satellites along with a group of other satellites in Space. The twin space satellites are named as GRACE and the mission is called GRACE-FO. The main purpose of leading this SpaceX expedition is to observe and analyze earth watercourse and how it moves around our planet. The satellites were placed within the orbit in 2002 and last year it goes offline. Those satellites provide a lot of data to scientists on earth’s water cycle, melting of polar ice caps, the rise in sea level, and drought.
The newly launched space satellite will continue that work, points towards any new change in data because the climate of the earth is changing which leads to many disastrous anomalies. GRACE-FO are two cars sized like satellites placed at a specific difference of 137 miles (220 kilometers) and they will constantly orbit around earth following one another.
“Water resources are vital to life on Earth and the way we operate civilization, it’s very important to understand how those resources are changing.” said Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
These satellites help the researchers to understand the how gravity is contributing towards the change in the earth watercourse. The scientist had placed first GRACE satellite with a particular distance orbiting the earth, as the force of gravity applied on each and everything it does exert a force on satellite as well, resulting in the change of distance between satellites each month by creating a gravity map. This shows that change in gravity map means a change in earth watercourse.
GRACE satellites have also been able to record melting ice caps of Greenland. It shed almost 281 gigatons of water in a year that means Greenland ice caps are losing its mass. Antartica is also shedding ice caps resulting in loss of 120 gigatons of water every year. The whole situation of melting ice sheets is contributing in general rising of sea level by 0.039 inches (1 millimeter) every year.
Grace satellites also measure drought period as well as the distribution of water in lake, rivers, glaciers. In 2011 sea level rise had been slowed for the time being while the ice sheets were still melting. Later, GRACE satellites show that they were storing in lands of South America and Australia.
In an interview Webb the verge,“In order for us to understand how our climate system is evolving and predict the future course of it, we really need to understand how the different elements of it function and how they’re trending,” he says. “Water … is one of the vital signs of how our climate is evolving.”
The new GRACE-FO satellites launch along with the five Iridium communication probes on a SpaceX Falcon rocket. However, the old GRACE satellites stop orbiting the earth in 2017 the new probes will operate on same microwave technology so there is no difference between the data also the new probes start to give data within the 90 days after launch. The new satellites have incorporated with large batteries and one extra camera, it will also encompass new laser technology for the testing purpose to determine whether it can replace microwave tech in future or not. Researchers said if laser tech worked out properly it could give us 10 times more accurate readings than Microwave tech.
The mission cost almost $430 million to US space agency, and it is anticipated to orbiting the earth for at least five years because thrusters are not involved in their system to adjust its position so they have less duration than other satellites and ultimately they will fall back to earth.