NASA Prepares To Launch Next Earth-Observing Satellite Mission

WASHINGTON -- NASA's newest Earth-observing research mission is nearing launch. The Glory mission will improve our understanding of how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect Earth's climate. Glory also will extend a legacy of long-term solar measurements needed to address key uncertainties about climate change.

Glory is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California on Feb. 23 at 5:09 a.m. EST. It will join a fleet called
the Afternoon Constellation or "A-train" of satellites. This group of
other Earth-observing satellites, including NASA's Aqua and Aura
spacecraft, flies in tight formation.

"Glory is going to help scientists tackle one of the major
uncertainties in climate change predictions identified by the United
Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the influence of
aerosols on the energy balance of our planet," said Michael Freilich,
director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission
Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "This mission
also marks the first satellite launch under President Obama's climate
initiative that will advance the United States' contribution to
cutting-edge and policy-relevant climate change science."

Originally confirmed in 2005, Glory has been developed by a team of
engineers and scientists at several government, industry and academic
institutions across the country. The Glory spacecraft arrived at
Vandenberg on Jan. 11 after a cross-country road trip from Orbital
Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va.

"The spacecraft is in place at the launch and all of the post-shipment
inspections and electrical tests have been completed," said Bryan
Fafaul, Glory project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md. The spacecraft will be mated to Orbital's Taurus XL
3110 rocket next month.

Glory will carry new technology designed to unravel some of the most
complex elements of the Earth system. The mission carries two primary
instruments, the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) and the Total
Irradiance Monitor (TIM). APS will improve measurement of aerosols,
the airborne particles that can influence climate by reflecting and
absorbing solar radiation and modifying clouds and precipitation.

TIM will extend a decades-long data record of the solar energy
striking the top of Earth's atmosphere, or total solar irradiance.
APS will collect data at nine different wavelengths, from the visible
to short-wave infrared, giving scientists a much-improved
understanding of aerosols. The instrument, NASA's first
Earth-orbiting polarimeter, will help scientists distinguish between
natural and human-produced aerosols. The information will be used to
refine global climate models and help scientists determine how our
planet is responding to human activities.

The TIM instrument will maintain and improve upon a 32-year record of
total solar irradiance, a value that fluctuates slightly as the sun
cycles through periods of varying intensity approximately every 11
years. While scientists have concluded that solar variability is not
the main cause of the warming observed on Earth in recent decades,
the sun has historically caused long-term climate changes. Having a
baseline of the solar energy that reaches Earth gives us a way to
evaluate future climate changes. Better measurements of total solar
irradiance give scientists another way to test their climate models
and understand the sun's longer cyclical changes and how they may
impact the climate.

Glory will fly in a low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 438 miles, about
the distance from Boston to Washington. After launch, mission
operators will conduct verification tests for 30 days and then begin
to collect data for at least three years.

Glory's Taurus launch rocket also will carry into orbit a secondary
payload: NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellite, or ELaNA,
mission. This mission will put three small research satellites, or
CubeSats, into orbit for Montana State University, the University of
Colorado and a consortium of state universities called Kentucky Space.

Glory is managed by Goddard for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
Washington. Launch management is provided by NASA's Launch Services
Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Orbital is responsible for Glory's design, manufacture, payload
integration, and testing, as well as spacecraft operations at its
Mission Operations Complex in Dulles, Va. The Laboratory for
Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at
Boulder provided and will operate the TIM instrument. Raytheon Space
and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, Calif., provided the APS
instrument, which will be operated by Goddard's Institute for Space
Studies in New York.

For more information about Glory, visit:


Source: NASA

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