NASA’s Glory Climate Mission Hits a Snag

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE, Calif.

A Taurus XL rocket waits on pad 576-E Feb. 22 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket's launch has been dealayed twice for technical problems. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Ms. Jennifer Green) Click for large image

The story below was released yesterday, but the mission has already been postponed once, and, twice.

Taurus Delay Extended: 2/23/2011 – VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. — The Taurus launch scheduled for 2:09 a.m. (PST), Feb. 24, has been delayed due to technical issues.

The launch is expected no earlier than Feb. 25 at 2:09 PST. More information will be released as it becomes available.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite (OCO) also had a run of bad luck: Bad week for hardware: Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite burns up

From the University of Colorado, Boulder:

Feb. 23 NASA mission to tote $28 million CU-Boulder instrument and tiny student satellite

A $28 million University of Colorado Boulder instrument developed to study changes in the sun’s brightness and its impact on Earth’s climate is one of two primary payloads on NASA’s Glory mission set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 23.

NASA's Glory mission is carrying a $28 million CU-Boulder instrument designed to study fluctuations in the sun's brightness and its impact on Earth's climate. Image courtesy NASA

Designed and built by a team from CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, the instrument called the Total Irradiance Monitor, or TIM, will point directly toward the sun to measure both short- and long-term fluctuations in the sun’s energy output as it reaches the top of Earth’s atmosphere. Such measurements are important because variations in the sun’s radiation can influence long-term climate change on Earth, said LASP researcher Greg Kopp, principal investigator on the TIM.

The Taurus XL rocket ferrying the Glory satellite also will be carrying a tiny CU-Boulder satellite designed and built by about 100 students, primarily undergraduates, who are participating in the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. The CubeSat satellite will be ejected from the rocket at about 400 miles in altitude to orbit the Earth and study new space communications techniques.

The CU-Boulder solar instrument on Glory is the most accurate instrument ever made to study the energy output from the sun and will continue a 32-year-long data record of solar radiation by NASA and other agencies, said Kopp. NASA’s Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, a $100 million satellite designed, built and operated by CU-Boulder’s LASP and launched in 2003, is equipped with a first-generation TIM instrument as well as three other solar measuring instruments.

“We’d like to know how the sun’s energy changes over both the short and long term,” said Kopp. “This spacecraft is carrying extremely sensitive instruments for monitoring solar variability, which makes the mission especially relevant given climate change on Earth and the importance of determining the natural influence on those changes.”

Glory will join five other NASA Earth-observing satellites as part of the Afternoon Constellation, or “A-Train,” a tightly grouped series of spacecraft that circle the globe several times each day to gather information on Earth’s biosphere and climate, including hurricane behavior and climate change. The A-Train spacecraft follow each other in close formation, flying mere minutes apart. The A-Train orbits Earth about once every 100 minutes.

The second primary instrument on the Glory mission, called the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor, or APS, was built by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, Calif. Scientists hope to learn how tiny liquid and solid aerosols — most smaller than the diameter of a human hair — influence climate on Earth.

Using Glory as well as prior and subsequent missions to measure solar radiation changes, scientists hope to determine how much energy reaches Earth on timescales of decades to centuries, influencing Earth’s long-term climate.

Scientists previously have shown that the overall output of the sun can change up to about 0.1 percent over the duration of a solar cycle, which lasts about 11 years. But such short-term variations cannot explain the warming seen on Earth in the past several decades. The vast majority of climate scientists agree global warming is due primarily to human-produced greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.

“In attributing climate change causes, solar variability measurements such as those from Glory are necessary to discriminate the natural from the human-caused effects on the climate,” Kopp said.

LASP has a long record of measuring solar radiation with various satellites and sounding rockets, including the Solar Mesosphere Explorer satellite that flew from 1981 to 1988 and which was dubbed “The Classroom in Space.” SME measured ozone and solar radiation and involved undergraduate and graduate students in virtually every phase of the effort, from design and development to hands-on control of the satellite from campus.

Because of technological advances, the TIM riding on Glory is expected to be three times more accurate than the TIM flying on CU-Boulder’s SORCE satellite, according to Kopp. The improvement is due in large part to better electrical design and more precise calibrations of solar space instruments that are being made using a new NASA-funded facility at LASP.

The second CU-Boulder payload, a CubeSat satellite dubbed Hermes that was designed and built by students, primarily undergraduates, is about four inches on a side — roughly the size of a Rubik’s Cube. The goal is to improve communications systems in tiny satellites through orbital testing that may pave the way for scientists to downlink large quantities of information, said Colorado Space Consortium Director Chris Koehler.

The students will be in contact with the Hermes satellite from atop the Discovery Learning Center, part of CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, said senior aerospace engineering sciences major Nicole Doyle, Hermes project manager. Ten CU-Boulder students will be traveling to California for the Hermes launch.

Hermes is part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, project. Two other CubeSat satellites will be aboard the Taurus rocket with Glory, one from Montana State University and one from Kentucky Space, a consortium of Kentucky state institutions.

Doyle said when she first came to CU-Boulder she was surprised to discover that undergraduates had regular opportunities to design, build, test and fly spacecraft. “This has been an incredible experience for me,” she said. “We learn from other CU students who are working on other space projects and who have experience in the kinds of research we are doing with Hermes. This is a great opportunity for students like me who want to work in the aerospace industry after college.”

Other LASP personnel on Glory include Project Manager Tom Sparn, lead systems engineer Brian Boyle, lead mechanical engineer Alan Yehle, lead electrical engineer Aref Nammari and lead integration and test engineer David Gathright. LASP students, including several undergraduates in conjunction will several professionals, will operate the orbiting TIM instrument from LASP’s Mission Operations Center on CU-Boulder’s East Campus.

Glory is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Launch management is provided by NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For more information about NASA’s Glory Mission visit www.nasa.gov. For more information on LASP visit lasp.colorado.edu/home/. For more information on the Colorado Space Grant Consortium visit spacegrant.colorado.edu/.

h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard

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34 thoughts on “NASA’s Glory Climate Mission Hits a Snag

  1. “Such measurements are important because variations in the sun’s radiation can influence long-term climate change on Earth, said LASP researcher Greg Kopp, principal investigator on the TIM.”

    That’s what we’ve been saying!

    How much is included in the EAU climate models?

  2. ” Such measurements are important because variations in the sun’s radiation can influence long-term climate change on Earth, said LASP researcher Greg Kopp, principal investigator on the TIM.”

    Soon, Mr. Gore and his followers will come and explain to Mr. Kopp that it’s the carbon dioxide, not the sun. He may even get a call from the ‘Mystery Man’.

  3. ” But such short-term variations cannot explain the warming seen on Earth in the past several decades. The vast majority of climate scientists agree global warming is due primarily to human-produced greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.”

    How comforting it must be to go through life with the certainty of a six year old boy. Not much point to investigation when the outcome is so undoubtedly known.

  4. I wish them success when they finally launch. Love the CU comment:

    “In attributing climate change causes, solar variability measurements such as those from Glory are necessary to discriminate the natural from the human-caused effects on the climate,” Kopp said.

    Yep. And not only solar variability. Of course, the hockey team will disagree…

  5. It is about time that the sun’s variations were studied more thoroughly. These obviously have impact on climate and all the rubbish spouted by alarmists that solar radiation was a constant to concentrate on CO2 as a driver and their ridiculous AGW/GHG theory must be laid to rest.

  6. You may be interested to hear the science briefing given the Glory team headed by Hal Maring, Glory Program Scientist at NASA HQ. He begins his presentation with these words:

    “We know the Earth’s climate is changing and we know the majority of that change is caused by human activity”

  7. “We’d like to know how the sun’s energy changes over both the short and long term,” said Kopp. “This spacecraft is carrying extremely sensitive instruments for monitoring solar variability, which makes the mission especially relevant given climate change on Earth and the importance of determining the natural influence on those changes.”

    This would seem to indicate that the science behind CAGW may not be settled yet!

  8. …variations in the sun’s radiation can influence long-term climate change on Earth, said LASP researcher Greg Kopp…

    Really? As we all know, the world’s foremost solar scientist doesn’t think so.

  9. Don’t tell us, the punch line….?

    Could not take off because of cold weather?

    Global warming my ARSE!

  10. “In attributing climate change causes, solar variability measurements such as those from Glory are necessary to discriminate the natural from the human-caused effects on the climate,” Kopp said.

    He talks with such a dead certainty, however there is no evidence that there is a difference between natural and human CO2.
    Most likely there is no difference between human CO2 by burning fossil fuel and volcanic CO2 emissions that burn carbon from magmatic penetration of the mantle’s sources.
    IPCC played down volcanic influences by researching only a few selected subaerial volcanoes, neglecting the fact that there are estimated 3,500,000 submarine volcanoes from which about 130,000 are active and emitting ~121 GtCpa (compare to ~8GtCpa of IPCC’s assumed human contribution).

    http://carbon-budget.geologist-1011.net/

    Assumedly there is no difference in isotopic fingerprint between human burning fossil fuels and burned C from volcanoes.

    The biased claim of existing differences in natural and human effects is therefore based on false presuppositions.

  11. P-Pod I

    Back in the day, when I worked at the ElectroMagnetics Laboratory (EML), we test this “faraday cage” for it’s EMI/EMF/EMC characteristics. At the opposite end of the door, there is a spring loaded plate that discharges upto 3 sats. It is teflon coated to enhance the ejection process. These cages are usually attached to the support/launch structure of the primary satellite and sometime prior to the release of the primary load, and after the fairings are released, these are launch at about 2-3 meters per sec speed. Very simple and interesting design. As in the provided link, the sat can be equal to 3 sat lengths, or 3 individual cubes.

    P-Pod II

  12. “Scientists previously have shown that the overall output of the sun can change up to about 0.1 percent over the duration of a solar cycle, which lasts about 11 years. But such short-term variations cannot explain the warming seen on Earth in the past several decades. The vast majority of climate scientists agree global warming is due primarily to human-produced greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.”

    The total output of electromagnetic radiation might have recently varied by only 0.1 percent but what about the potential effects from the changes in frequency distribution as the sun becomes more active. That doesn’t even account for the effects of the increase in solar wind or magnetic field on the upper atmosphere and cosmic rays. It seems that they see the mission is just there to provide talking points for alarmists and not do anything useful in the real world. I hate to think that people like the author of that statement are the ones who are in charge of analyzing the science. The outcome is already written if that is the case.

  13. I’m no scientist but how does solar radiance that is happening now affect long term climate, perhaps 200 years from now. When I turn off the space heater in a room it gets colder within minutes not a year from now.

  14. son of mulder says:

    “How can we trust that the equipment is fairly calibrated?”

    Good question. How much sensor drift is expected after launch? How do they correct for it without the ability to re-calibrate at regular intervals?

    I guess it doesn’t really matter. From their comments it’s clear that the honchos at NASA have their minds already made up: human activity is the cause of climate change [formerly known as catastrophic anthropogenic global warming – until they realized they couldn’t find the missing human-caused heat].☺

  15. Jeff K says:
    February 24, 2011 at 7:08 am

    I’m no scientist but how does solar radiance that is happening now affect long term climate, perhaps 200 years from now. When I turn off the space heater in a room it gets colder within minutes not a year from now.

    The oceans and to a more limited extent the continents are massive heat sinks. If the mass of the oceans in particular did not mediate the daily temperature shifts between day and night, the planet would have a climate more like the moon. The atmosphere helps, but the “greenhouse” effect is not remotely analogous to the way a real green house operates, which prevents convection and mixing and effectively limits heat loss to conduction through the glass. Ocean currents circulate and “cool” but this is a relative description, and as they “cool” they carry some of the solar heat they picked up at the surface downward where mixing, conduction and convection warm deep waters, effectively “storing” some heat. If you have toyed with the idea of a “solar house,” the use of a buried thermal mass to help cool the house in the summer and from which heat is drawn in the winter is analogous, though rock and earth much poorer conductors than water.

  16. “The Taurus XL rocket ferrying the Glory satellite also will be carrying a tiny CU-Boulder satellite designed and built by about 100 students, primarily undergraduates”

    Undergraduates??? And you are asking about calibration? How about accuracy and stability of orientation and positioning? What about aging? Electromigration? Surfaces deterioration in harsh space conditions? Ongoing thermal cycling? Undergraduates? It is a clear guaranteed SNAFU.

    REPLY: that’s a small communications test satellite piggybacking on the ride…not the Glory mission – Anthony

  17. “Smokey says:
    February 24, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Good question. How much sensor drift is expected after launch? How do they correct for it without the ability to re-calibrate at regular intervals?”

    I’m afraid my question was intended to be far more cynical. How do we know that bias is not built into the equipment? If they have made up their minds how do we know that they will launch a level playing field.

  18. son of mulder,

    I tend to be cynical too but sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

    Anthony, thanks, you beat me to it. Al should read this, and then think about the calibration problems in a large satellite orbiting where no one can verify calibration of its instruments.

  19. Isn’t this about the 3rd time a significant measuring device that would help clarify the greenhouse gas hypothesis has cratered? Ironic to me is how little attention seems to be paid to albedo shifts created by humans clearing land and planting other than native plants. Just 400 years ago a squirrel in Maine could go all the way to Florida without touching the ground. There may be AGW but it may not be CO2 that is causing all the ruckus. Changes in vegetation also cause changes in transpiration and water vapor is more of a greenhouse gas than CO2.

  20. This whole set up is designed to knock down a straw man.
    It is not the total iradiation from the sun that is important.
    We already know this does not vary too much.
    It is variations in the electro and magnetic flux between sun, earth, moon and possibly the other planets which needs to be tested.

    Oh and getting a beter handle on the accuracy of measurements from earth bound thermometers and perhaps even more importantly, getting a bettter understanding of the work of Dr. Spencer.

  21. @Mark

    Thanks for waking up from under that rock which you’ve been sleeping. You know it has to be us humans causing all this now-non-warming havoc. And those damn deniers keep sabotaging those satellites. I’m with you man!?

    Romeo Delta Delta 3 over and out.

  22. son of mulder says:
    February 24, 2011 at 11:46 am
    How do we know that bias is not built into the equipment?
    – – – – – – – – – –
    Well, so how? Maybe you could ask them.

  23. “Mister Ed says:
    February 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    son of mulder says:
    February 24, 2011 at 11:46 am
    How do we know that bias is not built into the equipment?
    – – – – – – – – – –
    Well, so how? Maybe you could ask them.”

    And how would we know that bias wouldn’t be built into the answer?

  24. I am wondering not about how warm the surface but about how much additional H2O is being created/stored in the ionosphere during this season of heavy cosmic ray bombardent. Seems to me that this is creating water directly in our atmosphere.
    From spaceweater.com: Sundogs abound: http://www.spaceweather.com/
    I think the floods are going to hit before we desiccate.

  25. son of mulder says:
    February 25, 2011 at 4:10 am
    “Mister Ed says:
    February 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    son of mulder says:
    February 24, 2011 at 11:46 am
    How do we know that bias is not built into the equipment?
    – – – – – – – – – –
    Well, so how? Maybe you could ask them.”

    And how would we know that bias wouldn’t be built into the answer?
    – – – – – – – – – –
    Good questions, but I’m not a sat-data epistemologist. How is data checking done for remote-sensing satellites in general?

    How is truthfulness checking done for scientists in general? Read the instruments’ pre-launch test reports? Hack the program’s email? Check the principals’ other publications? Interview a bunch of them and cross-check their answers? Threaten the professors’ tenure? Give the students beer and pot? Waterboard department heads and deans?

    It’s not my line of work, but I’m sure there are people who know.

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