NASA's 'Age Of Aquarius' Dawns With Launch From California

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June 10, 2011

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
321-867-2468
george.h.diller@nasa.gov 

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov 

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474
alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov 

RELEASE: 11-181

NASA'S 'AGE OF AQUARIUS' DAWNS WITH LAUNCH FROM CALIFORNIA

WASHINGTON -- NASA's "Age of Aquarius" dawned Friday with the launch 
of an international satellite carrying the agency-built Aquarius 
instrument that will measure the saltiness of Earth's oceans to 
advance our understanding of the global water cycle and improve 
climate forecasts.

The Aquarius/SAC-D observatory rocketed into space from Vandenberg Air 
Force Base in California atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II 
rocket at 7:20:13 a.m. PDT. Less than 57 minutes later, the 
observatory separated from the rocket's second stage and began 
activation procedures, establishing communications with ground 
controllers and unfurling its solar arrays.

Initial telemetry reports show the observatory is in excellent health. 
The SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas) observatory is a 
collaboration between NASA and Argentina's space agency, Comision 
Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE).

"Aquarius is a critical component of our Earth sciences work, and part 
of the next generation of space-based instruments that will take our 
knowledge of our home planet to new heights," said NASA Deputy 
Administrator Lori Garver. "The innovative scientists and engineers 
who contributed to this mission are part of the talented team that 
will help America win the future and make a positive impact across 
the globe."

Aquarius will make NASA's first space observations of the salinity or 
concentration of salt at the ocean surface, a key missing variable in 
satellite studies of Earth. Variations in salinity influence deep 
ocean circulation, trace the path of freshwater around our planet and 
help drive Earth's climate.

"Data from this mission will advance our understanding of the ocean 
and prediction of the global water cycle," said Michael Freilich, 
director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission 
Directorate at agency headquarters in Washington. "This mission 
demonstrates the power of international collaboration and accurate 
spaceborne measurements for science and societal benefit. This would 
not be possible without the sustained cooperation of NASA, CONAE and 
our other partners."

In addition to Aquarius, the observatory carries seven instruments 
that will monitor natural hazards and collect a broad range of 
environmental data. Other mission partners include Brazil, Canada, 
France and Italy.

"This mission is the most outstanding project in the history of 
scientific and technological cooperation between Argentina and the 
United States," said CONAE Executive and Technical Director Conrado 
Varotto. "Information from the mission will have significant benefits 
for humankind."

Aquarius will map the global open ocean once every seven days for at 
least three years with a resolution of 93 miles (150 kilometers). The 
maps will show how ocean surface salinity changes each month, season 
and year. Scientists expect to release preliminary salinity maps 
later this year.

Aquarius will measure salinity by sensing thermal microwave emissions 
from the water's surface with three microwave instruments called 
radiometers. When other environmental factors are equal, these 
emissions indicate the saltiness of surface water. A microwave radar 
scatterometer instrument will measure ocean waves that affect the 
precision of the salinity measurement. Because salinity levels in the 
open ocean vary by only about five parts per thousand, Aquarius will 
be able to detect changes as small as approximately two parts per 
10,000, equivalent to about one-eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a 
gallon of water.

During the next 25 days, the Aquarius/SAC-D service platform will be 
tested and maneuvered into its final operational, near-polar orbit 
408 miles (657 kilometers) above Earth. Science operations will begin 
after the observatory's instruments are checked out. This 
commissioning phase may last up to 65 days.

Aquarius was built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, 
Calif., and the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA's 
Launch Services Program, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, managed 
the launch. JPL will manage Aquarius through its commissioning phase 
and archive mission data. Goddard will manage Aquarius mission 
operations and process science data. CONAE is providing the SAC-D 
spacecraft, optical camera, thermal camera with Canada, microwave 
radiometer, sensors from various Argentine institutions and the 
mission operations center. France and Italy also are contributing 
instruments. For more information about Aquarius/SAC-D, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/aquarius

and

http://www.conae.gov.ar/eng/principal.html 

	
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