NASA Kicks Off Its 2014 Earth Campaign

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NASA has a big year planned for 2014, with January representing the kickoff of the 2014 ‰ÛÏEarth Right Now‰Û campaign, which involves the launch of five missions to further Earth observation.

JAXA's Dual-frequency Radar is integrated to GPM's core satellite at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Image Credit: NASA.

JAXA’s Dual-frequency Radar is integrated to GPM’s core satellite at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA’s 2014 Earth Right Now Campaign begins today, signaling the start of an ambitious year for the agency’s Earth science departments. For the first time in more than a decade, NASA will be launching five Earth science missions in a single year.

NASA plans to celebrate the kickoff with a media teleconference highlighting events for the year and a NASA TV video file that profiles the five events, shares comments from NASA Headquarters leadership, and offers information on Earth science instruments from the International Space Station (ISS) crew.

Today’s kickoff will be followed by a Jan. 27 prelaunch press conference at the Goddard Space Flight Center for the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM).

This year’s missions are as follows:

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) ‰ÛÒ This mission is an international endeavor that will collect information about rain and snow events worldwide through the use of data gathered by an international network of satellites. Central to this mission is a single ‰ÛÏcore‰Û satellite that is equipped with a radiometer system capable of collecting precipitation measurements of its own and serving as a standard for coordinating measurements from other satellites collecting similar data. The testing and development of the equipment for this mission has been in process for nearly two years, and the Core Observatory for GPM is scheduled to launch in February 2014. It is intended as a successor to the earlier, comparable Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM).

For the GPM, NASA will be working with several other space agencies including: theåÊJapan Aerospace Exploration AgencyåÊ(JAXA), theåÊCentre National d’Ìätudes Spatiales (CNES), theåÊIndian Space Research OrganizationåÊ(ISRO), theåÊNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationåÊ(NOAA), and theåÊEuropean Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological SatellitesåÊ(EUMETSAT).

ISS-RapidScat This is an instrument associated with the International Space Station (ISS) and designed to monitor ocean winds. These measurements are used for purposes such as producing weather forecasts and predicting or monitoring hurricane development.åÊ ISS RapidScat is intended to replace an earlier satellite, QuickScat, which served the same purpose but stopped collecting data in 2009. Rapidscat is slated for launch to join the International Space Station’s array of instruments in June 2014.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 åÊ(OCO-2) – This is an instrument that uses spectrometers to take precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The resulting data can be compared against ground and airborne- based instruments for validation, allowing for accurate monitoring of atmospheric carbon levels. The Observatory will be launched in early July and is anticipated to remain operational for two years.

ISS Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) – This is a system based on LiDAR (light detection and ranging system) and used to locate, identify, and measure particulates in the atmosphere, including cloud and aerosol coverage.åÊ CATS will be replacing a previous monitoring system,åÊCloud-Aerosol LiDAR and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO). It is hoped that the long-term monitoring information gathered by CATS and CALIPSO will be used to improve models of Earth’s atmospheric feedback processes and perhaps be applied to future studies of the atmospheres of other planets. ISS CATS is scheduled to deploy in September 2014.

Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) ‰ÛÒ This is a monitoring mission designed to track surface soil moisture and whether soil is in a frozen or thawed state. These measurements are achieved by the use of microwave radiometer and radar measurements and are intended to serve a variety of uses. Soil moisture interacts with temperature feedbacks, plays an important role in agricultural decisions, and offers important insight into understanding water cycles and other ecosystem processes. The SMAP mission is to launch in November 2014 and collect data for at least three years.

For more information on these and other upcoming NASA projects, see the NASA news website.