June 10, 2011

Aquarius Satellite Launches Successfully

NASA successfully launched a satellite to observe levels of salt on the surface of the world's oceans on Friday.

The Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:20 Central in the morning.

The satellite will map the entire open ocean every seven days from its position 408 miles above Earth, producing monthly estimates that show how salt levels change over time and location.

"The mission will survey the salinity levels at the surface of the ocean and seas and will complete the most detailed summary of conditions ever undertaken," NASA said in a statement.

"Until Aquarius, salt-content observations were mostly taken by ships traversing their trade routes. The information was incomplete, researchers say."
NASA said the Aquarius/SAC-D is a global collaboration with partner Argentina as well as France, Brazil, Canada and Italy.

NASA lost a $424 million satellite earlier this year after it failed to separate properly from its rocket launcher and plunged into the ocean.

Aquarius did not reach the same fate as it fell away as planned within minutes of the launch.

NASA said the satellite observatory is carrying seven additional instruments to "collect environmental data for a wide range of applications, including studies of natural hazards, air quality, land processes and epidemiology."

The Aquarius mission is expected to last three years.


Image Caption: Liftoff of the Delta II rocket with the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


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