NASA to attempt launching another 'carbon observatory' – the last one burned up

Artist's rendering of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2

WUWT readers may recall that back in 2009, we reported on the first attempt: Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite burns up

Now they are trying again. From NASA JPL:

NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere is in final preparations for a July 1 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission will provide a more complete, global picture of the human and natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as carbon dioxide’s “sinks,” the natural ocean and land processes by which carbon dioxide is pulled out of Earth’s atmosphere and stored. Carbon dioxide, a critical component of Earth’s carbon cycle, is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate.

“Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plays a critical role in our planet’s energy balance and is a key factor in understanding how our climate is changing,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “With the OCO-2 mission, NASA will be contributing an important new source of global observations to the scientific challenge of better understanding our Earth and its future.”

OCO-2 will launch on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket and maneuver into a 438-mile (705-kilometer) altitude, near-polar orbit. It will become the lead satellite in a constellation of five other international Earth monitoring satellites that circle Earth once every 99 minutes and cross the equator each day near 1:36 p.m. local time, making a wide range of nearly simultaneous Earth observations. OCO-2 is designed to operate for at least two years.

The spacecraft will sample the global geographic distribution of the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide and allow scientists to study their changes over time more completely than can be done with any existing data. Since 2009, Earth scientists have been preparing for OCO-2 by taking advantage of observations from the Japanese GOSAT satellite. OCO-2 replaces a nearly identical NASA spacecraft lost because of a rocket launch mishap in February 2009.

At approximately 400 parts per million, atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least the past 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are currently adding nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, producing an unprecedented buildup in this greenhouse gas.

Greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat within Earth’s atmosphere, warming the planet’s surface and helping to maintain habitable temperatures from the poles to the equator. Scientists have concluded increased carbon dioxide from human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning and deforestation, has thrown Earth’s natural carbon cycle off balance, increasing global surface temperatures and changing our planet’s climate.

Currently, less than half the carbon dioxide emitted into Earth’s atmosphere by human activities stays there. Some of the remainder is absorbed by Earth’s ocean, but the location and identity of the natural land sinks believed to be absorbing the rest are not well understood. OCO-2 scientists hope to coax these sinks out of hiding and resolve a longstanding scientific puzzle.

“Knowing what parts of Earth are helping remove carbon from our atmosphere will help us understand whether they will keep doing so in the future,” said Michael Gunson, OCO-2 project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Understanding the processes controlling carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will help us predict how fast it will build up in the future. Data from this mission will help scientists reduce uncertainties in forecasts of how much carbon dioxide will be in the atmosphere and improve the accuracy of global climate change predictions.”

OCO-2 measurements will be combined with data from ground stations, aircraft and other satellites to help answer questions about the processes that regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide and its role in Earth’s climate and carbon cycle. Mission data will also help assess the usefulness of space-based measurements of carbon dioxide for monitoring emissions.

The observatory’s science instrument features three high-resolution spectrometers that spread reflected sunlight into its component colors and then precisely measure the intensity of each color. Each spectrometer is optimized to record a different, specific color absorbed by carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules in Earth’s atmosphere. The less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more light the spectrometers detect. By analyzing the amount of light, scientists can estimate the relative concentrations of these chemicals.

The new observatory will dramatically increase the number of observations of carbon dioxide, collecting hundreds of thousands of measurements each day when the satellite flies over Earth’s sunlit hemisphere. High-precision, detailed, near-global observations are needed to characterize carbon dioxide’s distribution because the concentration of carbon dioxide varies by only a few percent throughout the year on regional to continental scales. Scientists will analyze the OCO-2 data, using computer models similar to those used to predict the weather, to locate and understand the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide.

OCO-2 is a NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder Program mission managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, built the spacecraft bus and provides mission operations under JPL’s leadership. The science instrument was built by JPL, based on the instrument design co-developed for the original OCO mission by Hamilton Sundstrand in Pomona, California. NASA’s Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, visit:

http://oco.jpl.nasa.gov

and

http://www.nasa.gov/oco2

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johnmarshall

If (big IF) OCO2 provides the proof that CO2 has zero roll in climate then money will n ot have been wasted.
Problem is that with NASA’s love of twisting the data to prove their point I doubt we will get much sense from this bauble.

SasjaL

NASA to attempt launching another ‘carbon observatory’ – the last one burned up
– Ie, NASA is burning money …
Each spectrometer is optimized to record a different, specific color absorbed by carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules in Earth’s atmosphere.
– And there are no other molecules in the atmosphere that absorbe the very same frequency?

Mike from Carson Valley a particularly cold place that could benefit from some warming

“Scientists have concluded increased carbon dioxide from human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning and deforestation, has thrown Earth’s natural carbon cycle off balance, increasing global surface temperatures and changing our planet’s climate.” No mention of the Pause but they have sure bought into this CO2 what did it thingee

TAG

Why this hostility to scientific research. I agree with the concern that much of climate science is politicized and conducted by third and fourth team activist scientists.. However, I don’t agree that an effort to get more data is in anyway bad. More data will constrain the wild political claims made by activists (on both sides) and their scientific partners. Much that is wrong with climate debate is that the science is so limited that no definitive claims can be made. As a major example and as we all know the estimates of CO2 sensitivity have not changed since the 1970s. 30 years of research and no advances have been made. We need more science and less politics and more data is a way to do this.

Kenny

Hey…..I work at ULA….That’s our Delta II!

John Hendrickson

So the carbon sinks are identified by the swirl of color?

Willis Eschenbach

In general, all data is good data. I don’t think this data means much, but so be it.
However, what I didn’t understand was this:

OCO-2 is designed to operate for at least two years.

Two years? We’re spending millions to put it up there and it’s so shoddily built that it has only a two year design lifetime?
Space scientists in the crowd … is this usual? If so, could we subcontract the design to Toyota or someone other than NASA?
w.

Chris Koyl

They will need to shoot it down if the numbers don’t act in their favor.

Patrick

“Willis Eschenbach says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:52 am”
It’s clear to me this craft has a very specific and pre-determined mission (Read result). Produce a scary “image” that shows CO2 is a problem for Earth. The NASA lable is intended to lend “scientific credence” to the craft/mission.

richardscourtney

Friends:
I, too, am very pleased at this new satellite and its promise to provide additional data on atmospheric CO2.
However, the anticipated short life of the satellite is only ~two years which is only two complete CO2 seasonal cycles. In light of the desire for political policies to constrain CO2 emissions we need much more data over much longer times.
It is not known what if any effect such policies would probably have because there is insufficient data about the carbon cycle. Chapter 2 from Working Group 3 in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001) said

no systematic analysis has published on the relationship between mitigation and baseline scenarios

To date there is still no systematic analysis which indicates likely effects of such policies. The OCO-2 satellite is only a small step along a very long road when we need all the information to be found along the road.
Richard

Eustace Cranch

“Carbon”? Really? In that case, I had a nice shower of hydrogen this morning. Then I sprinkled a little chlorine on my eggs.

DonS

Willis Eschenbach says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:52 am Sorry, Willis, that’s the way it is with bargain electronics. For around half the cost of the product, the manufacturer/retailer will offer an extended one-year warranty.

beng

Make sure to sign-up and make your payments early so you can get access to the raw data instead of the “homogenized”, public data.

Willis Eschenbach says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:52 am
> However, what I didn’t understand was this:

OCO-2 is designed to operate for at least two years.

That caught my eye last night too. NASA’s too glitzy web site says this at http://oco.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/#

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will be NASA’s first dedicated Earth remote sensing satellite to study atmospheric carbon dioxide from Space. OCO-2 will be collecting space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize sources and sinks on regional scales. OCO-2 will also be able to quantify CO2 variability over the seasonal cycles year after year.

Perhaps they figure two years of data will answer those questions.
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/fact_sheets/oco2.pdf (four pages of information that is scattered over a dozen pages on the web site) says in part:

Mission Duration
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 is designed to operate
for at least two years, long enough to validate a
novel, space-based measurement approach and analysis
concept that could be applied to future long-term, spacebased
carbon dioxide monitoring missions. The spacecraft
could continue to fly well beyond its nominal two-year lifetime,
however.

So that says it’s also a test of the instruments as well as data collection.

TAG says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:14 am

Why this hostility to scientific research. I agree with the concern that much of climate science is politicized and conducted by third and fourth team activist scientists.. However, I don’t agree that an effort to get more data is in anyway bad.

I think WUWT commenters have been getting lazy over time. Given the high pace of new posts, people who want to make a comment seem to go the fast route with something snarky instead of taking the time to add to the discussion.
Some posts don’t deserve much more than “snarkados”, but I see those as useful outlets that reduce useless comments on other posts.
Sometimes the best comments on a post are several hours after the post goes up. The snarky comments dominate the early comments, the more thoughtful discussion is after that, then the traditional bickering between people who know they’re on the right pedestals run out the clock.

OT: Aw, rats – a Google search for |”snarknado”| included “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 236 already displayed.” (They’re still inflating estimates – they first said “about 5,870 results.”)

ggm

So they are analysing which wavelengths of IR that CO2 and O2 absorb – but what about H20 ? There is a huge overlap between the absorption spectrum of those 3 molecules. If they aren’t also looking at H20 absorption, then this is a waste of money – and worse, it’s data will be useless, and probably only useful if manipulated for a pre-determined cause.

Dire Wolf

@Willis: “Space scientists in the crowd … is this usual? If so, could we subcontract the design to Toyota or someone other than NASA?”
Like maybe the people who built the near-unstoppable mars rovers?

Tom in Florida

Willis Eschenbach says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:52 am
However, what I didn’t understand was this:
” OCO-2 is designed to operate for at least two years.”
========================================================================
I tend to think that the mission is fully funded for two years and then must be refunded each year or two. If they do not get the additional funding after two years they can still claim that the mission was a success as it was only supposed to be a two year mission.
You gotta play the funding game.

Tom O

I suppose we can take solace from the fact that at least they are wasting this money on chasing ghosts and not using it to build more drones to use to kill people. I wonder if the design of the instruments will allow data to show what they don’t want it to show. And finally, exactly how is this data “useful” since there isn’t a damn thing we can control beyond turning the lights out permanently on civilization. One thing is certain, it isn’t being launched to prove the non-existence of AGW.

chuck

Willis Eschenbach says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:52 am
“However, what I didn’t understand was this:”
..
The Mars rover Opportunity was designed for a 90-day mission.
..
It’s still working 10 years later

DrTorch

These sorts of things don’t seem to work out well for NASA. Look what happened to ICESAT

Another federal waste of taxpayer money.

Resourceguy

Where do we point our laser pointers?

earwig42

“Carbon dioxide, a critical component of Earth’s carbon cycle, is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate.”
Climate Agnotology from NASA. The gift that keeps on giving (us the shaft!)

Alan Robertson

Two years? Just in time for the “see, we told you so” screed before the 2016 elections, but no time for fact checking.

PeterVW

You know what they call this “replacement” of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory? Carbon Copy…

“John Hendrickson says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:39 am
So the carbon sinks are identified by the swirl of color?”
No

schitzree

Personaly I think 4 comments in is a bit early to be complaining about the quality of the comments. And I don’t think those first 3 comments were THAT dismisive of the project.

Chuck

I think the “at least 2 years” has to do with how long is the initial funding for the mission and not so much about the length of time the satellite can operate. You see this all the time with NASA planetary missions. The MESSENGER mission at Mercury started with one year and will end next year with a third extended mission, not because of spacecraft failure but because they’ve done everything they wanted to do. Cassini at Saturn had a 4 year mission but is still operating marking its 10th year at the end of this month. And of course one of the Mars Exploration Rovers is still operating after 10 years despite it’s 90 day guarantee.

Coach Springer

“Unprecedented build up”? In what terms? Rate of increase? How do you know? In relation to what time period? The level of CO2 certainly isn’t unprecedented and certainly isn’t a cause for alarm. Sounds like a vague term used for hyperbole. My taking a walk down a particular road could be unprecedented, historic and groundbreaking – yet insignificant. They use these words all the time in the media to grab attention whether in sports, politics or gossip.

If the satellite launches the Jig-will-be-up. The launch therefore requires sabotage.

faboutlaws

The last one burned up. I hope they didn’t build this one out of wood.

Phil.

SasjaL says:
June 13, 2014 at 3:49 am
NASA to attempt launching another ‘carbon observatory’ – the last one burned up
– Ie, NASA is burning money …
Each spectrometer is optimized to record a different, specific color absorbed by carbon dioxide and oxygen molecules in Earth’s atmosphere.
– And there are no other molecules in the atmosphere that absorbe the very same frequency?

Correct.
ggm says:
June 13, 2014 at 5:44 am
So they are analysing which wavelengths of IR that CO2 and O2 absorb – but what about H20 ? There is a huge overlap between the absorption spectrum of those 3 molecules.

No there isn’t, you’ve been misinformed by cartoon versions of the spectra, it’s very easy to separate the signals.

Resourceguy

Polluting space is a serious problem.

SasjaL

ggm on June 13, 2014 at 5:44 am
Yes, what I indicated in my second paragraph @ 3:49 am. (Unfortunally some readers here don’t get irony or even sarcasm without a tag at the end of the comment … My bad, should have remember that.)
It’s likely that they knowingly utilize the situation. The characteristics of water are taught in elementary school or at least was once taught. If not anymore, they are old enough to have learned, so there are no excuses … When using measurement methods, especially indirect (like satellites) and sources of error are ignored, it’s ether ignorance, (criminal) intent or a combination of both. Take a pick!

DD More

Kenny says: June 13, 2014 at 4:37 am
Hey…..I work at ULA….That’s our Delta II!
Can you make sure that the “payload fairing” does not fail to separate, NASA said. The fairing covers the top of the satellite during launch and needs to come off so the satellite can detach from the rocket and enter orbit. The reason the last one didn’t make it.
OCO-2 will launch on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket and maneuver into a 438-mile (705-kilometer) altitude, near-polar orbit. It will become the lead satellite in a constellation of five other international Earth monitoring satellites that circle Earth once every 99 minutes and cross the equator each day near 1:36 p.m. local time, making a wide range of nearly simultaneous Earth observations. OCO-2 is designed to operate for at least two years.
If you are trying to observe and monitor a process and that process gets converted and changed at varying times per day (Remember, when plants photosynthesize in the presence of sunlight, they produce oxygen. Then, in the absence of sunlight, they “respire,” or use oxygen and release carbon dioxide, or CO2. Carbon dioxide reacts instantly with water (H20) to form a mild acid called “carbonic acid.” Its chemical formula is H2CO3. As a result, when aquatic plants are respiring, or releasing CO2, the water around them is slightly acidic, and when they are photosynthesizing, the acidity decreases. The standard measure of acidity is pH. When water is acidic, the pH measure is less than 7. The opposite of pH is called “alkalinity.” When water is alkaline, the pH measure is more than 7. When water is perfectly neutral – neither acidic nor alkaline – the pH measure is exactly 7.
JEA Science Project: 7th Grade Water: Watching Plants Breathe) why are you so proud to have the monitor always at the same time of day?

John F. Hultquist

Sure, “Good Luck” to this project. However, they begin with the assumption
Carbon dioxide,…, is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate.
Interesting is the now inserted adjective “human-produced.” Are we to take from this that Earth Mother Gaia doesn’t produce any CO2, or that humans don’t produce any H2O? Then there is the term “driving”, as in “control knob.” This is all bovine biomass waste.
Let’s hope the rocket science is better than the climate science.

Pamela Gray

I am sorry but this is a grant gravy train chaser and rises to the same level as the two-minute AO “opinion” piece, IE not worth much and filled with mistakes. The fact that the first CO2 satellite blew up makes me think this is a low-end piece of equipment built on a dime and is probably being used in hopes of priming the pump for a later big ticket program complete with a much more expensive watermelon toilet seat. I wouldn’t buy this at a flea market. However, the fact that it is still a very expensive plain ol’ toilet seat, gifted to a now very political and self-important bratty branch of public government constantly tugging on daddy’s sleeve for a piece of candy and is bent on sucking mommy dry, irritates the hell out of me.
In my next post I will tell you how I REALLY feel!

Gunga Din

TAG says:
June 13, 2014 at 4:14 am
Why this hostility to scientific research. I agree with the concern that much of climate science is politicized and conducted by third and fourth team activist scientists..

=========================================================================
I think part of the hostility isn’t an objection to gathering more data or the skepticism that is healthy for the “conclusions” of any scientific research but rather a suspicion that any data gathered will be spun to support the CAGW meme and/or suppressed if it does not.
Whatever the raw data presents should not require a FOIA request to be analyzed..
Let’s wait and see if it does.

Gunga Din

faboutlaws says:
June 13, 2014 at 7:25 am
The last one burned up. I hope they didn’t build this one out of wood.

=================================================================
Or use any carbon fibers!

Probably “calibrated” to confirm warmunist claims.

Robert Wykoff

I wonder what will happen if the satellite determines places like the north american land mass are found to be carbon dioxide sinks, and the oceans, and antarctic volcanoes are found to be carbon dioxide sources.

HelmutU

At approximately 400 parts per million, atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least the past 800,000 years. This is only correct, if the measurement of the CO2 in ice-cores are reliable. But nobody has shown this until today. As the late Prof. Jawurowski has shown there around 20 natural processes, that can change the CO2-content in Icecores.

It is my understanding that for every ton of CO2 added to the atmosphere 15 tons is added to the oceans. It has been determined that 1/2 the CO2 created by humans remains in the atmosphere. So the obvious question is: where did all the CO2 that goes into the oceans come from. One part came from humans. Where did the other 14 parts come from?
Dn’t recall seeing a post on this at WUWT.

u.k.(us)

Pamela Gray says:
June 13, 2014 at 9:06 am
============
I feel sorry for the trout.

aaron

How long was the original designed to operate?
Even if it only operates about two years, I think it will be worth it. It will be very interesting to see how CO2 moves over a year.

aaron

Rick Werme,

I think WUWT commenters have been getting lazy over time. Given the high pace of new posts, people who want to make a comment seem to go the fast route with something snarky instead of taking the time to add to the discussion.
Some posts don’t deserve much more than “snarkados”, but I see those as useful outlets that reduce useless comments on other posts.
Sometimes the best comments on a post are several hours after the post goes up. The snarky comments dominate the early comments, the more thoughtful discussion is after that, then the traditional bickering between people who know they’re on the right pedestals run out the clock.

+1000

Chris R.

To Willis Eschenbach:
You asked: “Two years? We’re spending millions to put it up there and
it’s so shoddily built that it has only a two year design lifetime?
Space scientists in the crowd … is this usual?”
Fear not, Willis. I am no longer working in space science, but when I
did, many missions exceeded their design lifetime. A large project
that I was involved with, the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics program,
involved 2 NASA spacecraft (also spacecraft from ESA and the Japanese).
The POLAR spacecraft, half of NASA’s contribution, launched in 1996
and had a design lifetime of 3 years. It ceased operation in 2008. WIND,
the other half of NASA’s contribution, launched in 1994, is still providing
data, even though its design lifetime was again only 3 years.

Garanimal

For the record, since the “burned up” description is being used to slam quality work by quality people in the aerospace industry, it did not burn up. It is at the bottom of the ocean, banged up from impact with the water, but assuredly not burned up. The spacecraft did not fail in any way as “a low end piece of equipment built on a dime”. When you get easy details wrong, it undermines your credibility in debating of other more complex subjects. I come here for thoughtful debate of how to interpret facts and data. Much of the above commentary falls way short of that goal.