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JPL ships gear for sweeping greenhouse gas study

May 14, 2012
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory technicians in La Canad Flintridge prepare the OCO-2 instrument for shipping. The instrument consists of three parallel, high-resolution spectrometers expected to measure carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere more than 300 million times in a two-year period.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory technicians in La Canad Flintridge… (NASA/JPL-Caltech )

A scientific instrument designed to take the most meaningful snapshot yet of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is on its way to space, via a lengthy testing detour in Arizona.

On May 9 Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers in La Canada Flintridge sent the instrument, part of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, to Gilbert, Ariz., where it will be tested and integrated with the satellite that will house it. NASA plans to launch the OCO-2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base by the summer of 2014.

If all goes according to plan, every day for two years the instrument will take half a million measurements of carbon dioxide -- the most significant greenhouse gas produced by human and natural forces -- over land and sea around the globe. The mission is expected to build a deep, uniform database about carbon dioxide concentrations, patterns of movement and absorption. In a statement, NASA officials said the data may help political and business leaders craft environmental policies.

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In 2009 NASA launched its first effort to capture this information, but the Orbiting Carbon Observatory  failed to reach orbit.

JPL built the OCO-2 instrument and is managing the project. The satellite was made by Virginia-based Orbital Science Corp.

"The OCO-2 instrument looks great, and its delivery to Orbital's Gilbert, Ariz., facility is a big step forward in successfully launching and operating the mission in space," Ralph Basilio, OCO-2 project manager at JPL, said in a statement.

--Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News

Twitter: @bkisliuk

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