NASA officials said yesterday that the planned launch later this spring of the Aqua satellite would mark a major milestone in understanding Earth, and its water cycles, and the changing global climate.
Aqua will carry six instruments to collect data on global precipitation, evaporation, and the cycling of water. During its six-year mission, Aqua will examine changes in ocean circulation and how clouds and surface water processes affect climate, helping scientists better understand how global ecosystems are changing, and how they respond to and affect global environmental change.
“Aqua will provide unprecedented information on the global water cycle. The spacecraft will enable operational agencies to create more accurate weather forecasts in the future,” said Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise at NASA Headquarters.
Meteorologists also expect Aqua to improve weather forecasting, especially mid-range forecasts that go out two or more days.
Aqua is expected to be launched May 2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on a Boeing Delta-7920-10L expendable launch vehicle. The 10-minute launch window opens at 2:55 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (5:55 a.m. EDT). Aqua will fly at an altitude of approximately 705 kilometers (438 miles) above Earth in a near polar and sun synchronous orbit.
Aqua is the sister satellite to NASA’s Terra spacecraft, launched in December of 1999. Aqua will cross the equator daily at 1:30 p.m. as it heads North. The early afternoon observation time contrasts with the Terra satellite, which crosses the equator between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. daily.
The two satellites are expected to yield important insights into the “diurnal variability,” or the daily cycling of key scientific parameters such as precipitation and ocean circulation.