JPL ships gear for sweeping greenhouse gas study

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.

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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