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NASA's Aura Spacecraft Launches from Vandenberg

By Kirk L. Kroeker
Jul 15, 2004 9:58 AM PT

Aura, a NASA mission dedicated to the health of Earth's atmosphere, successfully launched today at 3:01:59 a.m. Pacific Time from the Western Range of Vandenberg Air Force Base, aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket.

NASA's Aura Spacecraft Launches from Vandenberg

Spacecraft separation occurred at 4:06 a.m. Pacific Time, inserting Aura into a 438-mile (705-kilometer) orbit.

As NASA's latest Earth-observing satellite, Aura will help us understand and protect the air we breathe.

'Tremendous Achievement'

"This moment marks a tremendous achievement for the NASA family and our international partners," said NASA Associate Administrator for Earth Science Dr. Ghassem Asrar. "We look forward to the Aura satellite offering us historic insight into the tough issues of global air quality, ozone recovery and climate change.

"This mission advances NASA's exploration of Earth and will also better our understanding of our neighbors in the planetary system," he added. "Aura joins its siblings, Terra, Aqua and 10 more research satellites developed and launched by NASA during the past decade, to study our home planet, Earth."

"Many people have worked very hard to reach this point and the entire team is very excited," said Aura Project Manager Rick Pickering of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Observation Systems Complete

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.

Aura will help answer three key scientific questions: Is the Earth's protective ozone layer recovering? What are the processes controlling air quality? How is the Earth's climate changing? NASA expects early scientific data from Aura within 30-90 days.

Aura will also help scientists understand how the composition of the atmosphere affects and responds to Earth's changing climate.

The results from this mission will help scientists better understand the processes that connect local and global air quality.

Aura's Four Instruments

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 people live, through the stratosphere, where the ozone layer resides and protects life on Earth.

Aura's four instruments are: the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS); the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS); the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI); and the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES).

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, developed and manages MLS and TES. HIRDLS was built by the United Kingdom and the United States.

OMI was built by the Netherlands and Finland in collaboration with NASA. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Aura mission.

NASA's Earth science enterprise is dedicated to understanding the Earth as an integrated system and applying Earth system science to improve prediction of climate, weather and natural hazards using the unique vantage point of space.

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