Earth Matters – NASA to launch four Earth science missions in 2022


NASA will launch four Earth science missions in 2022 to provide scientists with more information on fundamental climate systems and processes, including extreme storms, surface waters and oceans, and atmospheric dust. Scientists will discuss upcoming missions at American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting 2021, held in New Orleans between December 13 and 17.

NASA has a unique view of our planet from space. NASA’s fleet of Earth observation satellites provide high-quality data on Earth’s interconnected environment, from air quality to sea ice. These four missions will improve the ability to monitor our changing planet:

  • TROPICS will use six small satellites to provide improved and rapid measurements of tropical cyclones.
  • TRANSMIT will trace the origin and composition of mineral dust that can affect climate, ecosystems, air quality and human health with an imaging spectrometer aboard the International Space Station.
  • NOAA JPSS-2 will help scientists predict extreme weather conditions including floods, wildfires, volcanoes and more.
  • WORK assess the world’s oceans and their role in climate change, as well as monitor lakes, rivers and other surface waters.

Measuring tropical cyclonesTime resolved observations of precipitation structure and storm intensity with a constellation of small satellites (TROPICS)

NASA’s TROPICS mission aims to improve observations of tropical cyclones. Six TROPICS satellites will work together to provide microwave observations of a storm’s precipitation, temperature and humidity as quickly as every 50 minutes. Scientists expect the data to help them understand the factors behind the intensification of tropical cyclones and contribute to weather forecasting models.

In June 2021, the constellation’s first pathfinder or proof-of-concept satellite began collecting data, particularly from Hurricane Ida in August 2021. TROPICS satellites will be deployed in pairs of two on three different launches, which are expected to be completed by July 31, 2022.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) of the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this night view of Hurricane Ida on August 30, 2021. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Each satellite is about the size of a loaf of bread and carries a miniaturized microwave radiometer. Traveling in pairs in three different orbits, they will collectively observe the Earth’s surface more frequently than current weather satellites performing similar measurements, greatly increasing the data available for near real-time weather forecasts.

The TROPICS team is led by Principal Investigator Dr William Blackwell of the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT in Lexington, Massachusetts, and includes researchers from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and several universities and business partners. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service.

“The coolest part about this program is its impact on helping society,” Blackwell said. “These storms are affecting a lot of people. The higher frequency observations provided by TROPICS have the potential to support weather forecasts which can help people get to safety sooner. “

Studying mineral dust – Earth Surface Mineral Dust Sources Investigation (EMIT)

Winds lift dust from arid regions of the earth and carry mineral particles around the world. Dust can influence radiative forcing or the balance between the energy that comes from the Sun to the Earth and the energy that the Earth sends back into space hence the temperature of the surface and the atmosphere of the planet. Darker, iron-laden minerals tend to absorb energy, causing the environment to warm up, while brighter clay-containing particles scatter light in a way that can lead to cooling. In addition to affecting regional and global warming of the atmosphere, dust can affect air quality and the health of people around the world and, when deposited in the ocean, can also trigger blooms. microscopic algae.

In June 2020, dust storm “Godzilla” traveled from the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic Ocean, as shown in this true-color satellite imagery from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the NASA-NOAA satellite Suomi NPP and NOAA -20 satellites. Image Credit: NASA / Science Visualization Studio

The objective of the investigation of the sources of mineral dust on the surface of the Earth (TRANSMIT) is to map the origin of dust and estimate its composition so that scientists can better understand how it affects the planet. Scheduled for launch in 2022, EMIT has a one-year main mission and will be installed on the International Space Station. EMIT will use an instrument called an Imaging Spectrometer which measures visible and infrared light reflected from surfaces below. This data can reveal the distinct light-absorbing signatures of the minerals in the dust that help determine their composition.

“EMIT will fill a gap in our knowledge of the arid regions of our planet and answer key questions about how mineral dust interacts with the Earth system,” said Dr Robert Green, EMIT principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from NASA.

Observe Earth’s Storms – Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)

Predicting extreme storms several days in advance requires capturing precise measurements of the temperature and humidity in our atmosphere, as well as ocean surface temperatures. The NOAA / NASA Joint Polar Satellite System provide this essential data, which is used by forecasters and first responders. Satellites also tell us about floods, forest fires, volcanoes, smog, dust storms and sea ice.

“JPSS satellites are an essential part of the global numerical weather forecasting backbone,” said Dr Satya Kalluri, scientific advisor to the JPSS program.

An illustration of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). JPSS is a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. JPSS-2 is NOAA’s next-generation Earth observation operational program that acquires and distributes global environmental data primarily from multiple polar orbiting satellites. Image Credit: Orbital ATK / Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems

JPSS satellites circle the Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole, taking data and images as they fly. As the Earth rotates under these satellites, they observe every part of the planet at least twice a day.

The Suomi-NPP (National Polar orbiting-Partnership) and NOAA-20 satellites are currently in orbit. The JPSS-2 satellite is expected to be launched in 2022 from Vandenberg Space Force base in California on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Three more satellites will be launched in the coming years, providing data into the 2030s. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service.

Survey of Earth’s surface waters and oceans – Topography of surface waters and oceans (SWOT)

The topography of surface waters and oceans (WORK) will help researchers determine how much water is in Earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers. This will help scientists understand the effects of climate change on freshwater bodies and the ocean’s ability to absorb excess heat and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will manage the launch service, which is scheduled for November 2022. SWOT will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space base Force in California.

SWOT will collect data over a 75 mile (120 km) wide band, with space in the center for an altimeter track. This animation shows the collection of data on the state of Florida, rich in rivers, lakes and wetlands. Overall, measurements will be taken both over the ocean and over freshwater areas. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The SUV-sized satellite will measure the height of the water using its Ka-band radar interferometer, a new instrument that bounces radar pulses off the water surface and receives return signals with two different antennas at the same time. This measurement technique allows scientists to accurately calculate the height of the water. The data will help with tasks such as tracking regional sea level changes, monitoring changes in river flow and the amount of water stored by lakes, as well as determining how much fresh water is available. for communities around the world.

“SWOT will address the prominent role of the ocean in our weather and climate change and the consequences for the availability of fresh water on land,” said Dr Lee-Lueng Fu, SWOT project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of The NASA.

The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency Center National d’Etudes Spatiales, with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency and the British Space Agency.

Tags: Earth, EMIT, environment, JPSS, NASA, satellites, SWOT, TROPICS

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