Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For NASA's Aquarius, quest for salt a global endeavor

Date:
April 8, 2011
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
With more than a few stamps on its passport, NASA's Aquarius instrument on the Argentinian Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D spacecraft will soon embark on its space mission to "taste" Earth's salty ocean.

The Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft is unpacked and unveiled in the Spaceport Systems International payload processing facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The container protected the spacecraft on its journey from Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane. Following final tests, the spacecraft will be integrated to a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket in preparation for the targeted June launch. Aquarius, the NASA-built primary instrument on the SAC-D spacecraft, will map global changes in salinity at the ocean's surface.
Credit: VAFB/Randy Beaudoin

With more than a few stamps on its passport, NASA's Aquarius instrument on the Argentinian Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D spacecraft will soon embark on its space mission to "taste" Earth's salty ocean.

After a journey of development and assembly through NASA facilities; a technology center in Bariloche, Argentina; and testing chambers in Brazil, the Aquarius instrument, set to measure the ocean's surface salinity, recently made the trip from São José dos Campos, Brazil, to California's Vandenberg Air Force Base for final integration and testing before its scheduled launch on June 9.

Aquarius will map the concentration of dissolved salt at the ocean's surface, information that scientists will use to study the ocean's role in the global water cycle and how this is linked to ocean currents and climate. Sea surface temperature has been monitored by satellites for decades, but it is both temperature and salinity that determine the density of the surface waters of the ocean. Aquarius will provide fundamentally new ocean surface salinity data to give scientists a better understanding of the density-driven circulation; how it is tied to changes in rainfall and evaporation, or the melting and freezing of ice; and its effect on climate variability.

"The ocean is essentially Earth's thermostat. It stores most of the heat, and what we need to understand is how do changes in salinity affect the 3-D circulation of the ocean," said Gene Feldman, Aquarius Ground System and Mission Operations manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The development of the Aquarius mission began more than 10 years ago as a joint effort between Goddard and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In 2008, Goddard engineers completed the Aquarius microwave radiometer instrument, which is the key component for measuring salinity from space.

"The radiometer is the most accurate and stable radiometer built for sensing of Earth from space. It's a one-of-a-kind instrument," said Shannon Rodriguez-Sanabria, a microwave communications specialist at Goddard.

JPL built Aquarius' scatterometer instrument, a microwave radar sensor that scans the ocean's surface to measure the effect wind speed has on the radiometer measurements. The radiometer and scatterometer instruments, along with a 2.5-by-3-meter (8.25-by-10-foot) elliptical antenna reflector and many other systems, have been integrated together at JPL to form the complete Aquarius instrument. Other instruments aboard the SAC-D spacecraft are contributions from Argentina, France, Canada and Italy.

In June 2009, Aquarius was flown via a U.S. Air Force cargo jet to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, a destination known for its natural scenery of blue lakes and verdant mountains, to be integrated with Argentina's SAC-D spacecraft. A year later, the fully assembled spacecraft and all the instruments now referred to as the "Aquarius/SAC-D Observatory" were shipped to Brazil. There, engineers began a nine-month campaign of alignment, electromagnetic, vibration, and thermal vacuum testing to ensure it will survive the rigors of launch and space.

JPL will manage the Aquarius mission through Aquarius' commissioning phase, scheduled to last 45 days after launch. Goddard will then manage the Aquarius instrument operations during the mission. Argentina's Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE) will operate the spacecraft and download all of the data collected by Aquarius several times per day. Goddard is responsible for producing the Aquarius science data products. JPL will manage the data archive and distribution to scientists worldwide.

Aquarius will collect data continuously as it flies in a near-polar orbit and circles Earth 14 to 15 times each day. The field of view of the instrument is 390 kilometers (242 miles) wide, and it will provide a global map every seven days. The data will be compiled to generate more accurate monthly averages during the mission, which is designed to last a minimum of three years.

For more information about Aquarius, please visit http://aquarius.nasa.gov.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "For NASA's Aquarius, quest for salt a global endeavor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110408102727.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2011, April 8). For NASA's Aquarius, quest for salt a global endeavor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110408102727.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "For NASA's Aquarius, quest for salt a global endeavor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110408102727.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — Organizers of the People's Climate March and other rallies taking place in 166 countries hope to move U.N. officials to action ahead of their summit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) — Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins