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Twin spacecraft to track Earth’s water cycle successfully launched

Twin spacecraft to track Earth’s water cycle successfully launched

NASA has launched twin spacecraft to track the global water cycle. It was launched aboard the SpaceX rocket, along with five communications satellites.

The twin spacecraft of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO), a joint NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) mission, lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, sharing their ride into space with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites.

Ground stations have acquired signals from both GRACE-FO spacecraft. Initial telemetry shows the satellites are performing as expected. The GRACE-FO satellites are at an altitude of about 305 miles (490 kilometers), travelling about 16,800 mph (7.5 kilometers per second). They are in a near-polar orbit, circling Earth once every 90 minutes.

GRACE-FO continues the U.S./German partnership of the original GRACE mission, which operated from 2002 through 2017.

SpaceX:

  • SpaceX is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
  • It was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has since developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, which both currently deliver payloads into Earth orbit.

NASA:

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower established NASA in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science.

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