Aura Spacecraft Activation is Continuing

August 5, 2004
Aura

Aura spacecraft, launched July 15, is going very well so far.

Just over an hour after launch, the spacecraft separated from the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle. This was followed shortly thereafter by deployment of the spacecraft's solar array and transition to Sun point mode. The next day, the spacecraft transitioned to Earth point mode, where it remained another day before transitioning to fine point mode, the mission's normal operating mode. S-band communications with the space network began immediately, followed by routine ground network contacts. X-band playbacks from the solid-state recorder to the ground network are now ongoing as well.

All spacecraft subsystems have demonstrated readiness to support science operations, which cannot begin until the instruments are fully activated and Aura has reached its nominal orbit altitude.

With respect to orbit altitude, four of six planned ascent burns have been completed. The fifth ascent burn is planned for Fri., August 6. The Aura ascent plan anticipates reaching a nominal altitude of 705 kilometers (about 438 miles) this month.

All four instruments are powered and are systematically being activated; the following are some of the highlights that have occurred so far. The antenna launch latch for the Microwave Limb Sounder primary reflector has been released, and the receivers are undergoing characterization activities. Good output power from the Microwave Limb Sounder THz module gas laser local oscillator has been confirmed. The Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer translator has been unlatched, as has that instrument's pointing control system gimbals. The Sun-shield door for the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder has been released. Transition of the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer, High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder and the Ozone Monitoring Instrument to science mode is paced by their significant outgassing requirements, which last about 30 days.

"From what we have seen so far, satellite performance appears very solid," said Rick Pickering, Aura project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "Also, the performance of the entire operations team has been tremendous. Not only are all the team members inherently sharp and well-trained, many of them have extensive experience with Aqua, which is paying great dividends."

Aura, a mission dedicated to the health of Earth's atmosphere, will help us understand and protect the air we breathe. Aura will help answer three key scientific questions: Is Earth's protective ozone layer recovering? What are the processes controlling air quality? How is Earth's climate changing? NASA expects early scientific data from Aura within 30 to 90 days.

Each of Aura's four instruments is designed to survey different aspects of Earth's atmosphere. Aura will survey the atmosphere from the troposphere, where mankind lives, through the stratosphere, where the ozone layer resides and protects life on Earth.

With the launch of Aura, the first series of NASA's Earth Observing System satellites is complete. The other satellites are Terra, which monitors land, and Aqua, which observes Earth's water cycle.

The High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder was built by the United Kingdom and the United States. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed and manages the Microwave Limb Sounder and Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument was built by the Netherlands and Finland in collaboration with NASA. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Aura mission.

The Microwave Limb Sounder is intended to improve our understanding of ozone in Earth's stratosphere, which is vital in protecting us from solar ultraviolet radiation. The Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer is an infrared sensor designed to study Earth's troposphere and to look at ozone and other urban pollutants.

For Aura information and images on the Internet, visit: www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/2004/0517aura.html; and www.nasa.gov/aura.

For more information about the Microwave Limb Sounder, visit: mls.jpl.nasa.gov/.

For more information about the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer, visit: tes.jpl.nasa.gov/.

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.


Source: NASA

Explore further: Sunny, with a chance of nuclear bullets

Related Stories

Sunny, with a chance of nuclear bullets

July 23, 2015

In space, far above Earth's turbulent atmosphere, you might think the one thing you don't have to worry about is weather. But you would be wrong. Just ask the people charged with the safety of the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and ...

Satellite gearing up to take EPIC pictures of Earth

February 24, 2015

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite is on its way to do something epic. NOAA's spacecraft, sent to monitor space weather, will use its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) to capture the entire sunlit ...

2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

October 30, 2014

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year's hole was 24.1 million square kilometers ...

NASA's ten-year-old Aura satellite tracks pollutants

July 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Aura satellite, celebrating its 10th anniversary on July 15, has provided vital data about the cause, concentrations and impact of major air pollutants. With instruments providing key measurements of ...

Unclouding our view of future climate

May 22, 2014

If we had a second Earth, we could experiment with its atmosphere to see how increased levels of greenhouse gases would change it, without the risks that come with performing such an experiment. Since we don't, scientists ...

Natural ozone changes suggest good news for future

April 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —New NASA research on natural ozone cycles suggests ozone levels in the lowest part of Earth's atmosphere probably won't be affected much by projected future strengthening of the circulating winds that transport ...

Recommended for you

Explaining crocodiles in Wyoming

September 2, 2015

Fifty million years ago, the Cowboy State was crawling with crocodiles. Fossil records show that crocs lounged in the shade of palm trees from southwestern Wyoming to southern Canada during the Cretaceous and Eocene.  Exactly ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.