NASA will be staying busy this year with their five Earth-science missions they have planned for 2014,. Starting with the Feb. 27 liftoff of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center.
The GPM rain-mapping mission, a joint project between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploratory Agency, will provide near real-time observations of rainfall and snowfail every three hours all around the world, improving scientists’ understanding of climate change and global water cycle, NASA officials said.
“The water cycle, so familiar to all school-age young scientists, is one of the most interesting, dynamic, and important elements in our studies of the Earth’s weather and climate,” NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said in a statement. “GPM will provide scientists and forecasters critical information to help us understand and cope with future extreme weather events and fresh water resources.”
The GPM Core spacecraft will orbit Earth at an altitude of 253 miles (407 kilometers), about as high as the International Space Station per SPACE.com. From there, the satellite will scan Earth from the Arctic Circle in the north to the Antarctic Circle in the south, providing a better look at clouds, rain and snow systems.
In addition, the GPM observatory will serve as the powerful anchor of an international constellation of climate satellites, some of which are already aloft, NASA officials say.
“The GPM, through its core observatory and its constellation of satellites, will dramatically improve our knowledge of global precipitation and our ability to forecast it and its consequences,” Steve Neeck, deputy associate director of flight programs for NASA’s Earth science division, told reporters Monday.
The next NASA Earth-science mission to launch this year is ISS-RapidScat, an instrument scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on June 6 aboard private spaceflight company SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon cargo capsule.