March 19, 2010

ESA Climate Satellite Launch Set for April

A technical issue that delayed the February launch of the European Space Agency's (ESA) climate satellite has been fixed, the agency reports, opening the door for a new April 8 projected launch.

The Earth Explorer CryoSat-2, which initially was set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last month before fuel reserve problems were discovered, will measure the shape and thickness of ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic. The information gathered from the satellite should, over time, help scientists study the effects of climate and sea level changes on the polar regions.

"During the investigation, the Ukrainian company responsible for the overall design of the Dnepr launcher, Yuzhnoye SDO, and the company that develops the launcher's control system, Hartron-Arkos, confirmed that the ratio of fuel to oxidizer could be adjusted to improve the performance of the second stage engine," the ESA reported in a March 19 press release. "This small adjustment involved modifying the software that controls the fuel usage. The modifications have since been made and validated, and consequently the new launch date"¦ has been agreed with ESA."

CryoSat-2, an identical replica of an earlier satellite that was lost during an October 2005 launch attempt, will officially be the ESA's third "Earth Explorer" satellite.

The first, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), was launched in March 2009. As its name suggests, its mission is to map the gravity field and study changes that could occur.

The second, the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite, was sent into space in November 2009. The SMOS's goal is to "observe soil moisture over the Earth's landmasses and salinity over the oceans," according to the ESA website.


Image Caption: The CryoSat mission will provide data to determine the precise rate of change in the thickness of the polar ice sheets and floating sea ice. It is capable of detecting changes as little as 1 cm per year. The information from the CryoSat will lead to a better understanding of how the volume of ice on Earth is changing and, in turn, a better appreciation of how ice and climate are linked. Credit: ESA "“ P. Carril


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