NASA’s PACE ocean-monitoring satellite is set to launch on February 6, 2024. The spacecraft aims to study Earth’s seas and atmosphere. It will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The satellite will be deployed to an orbit 70% higher than the International Space Station’s. PACE, an acronym for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and Ocean Ecosystem, will aid researchers in assessing ocean health.
PACE Ocean-Monitoring Satellite – Mission Update
The PACE ocean-monitoring satellite will map the ocean’s colors and aid in ocean health assessment. It will study the color and quantity of light to understand tiny algae essential to Earth’s marine life. The mission will support NASA’s satellite observations of ocean life, air quality, and climate metrics.
PACE will also distinguish between dangerous and beneficial phytoplankton species at the ocean’s surface. The data will be integrated with other Earth science missions, like the SWOT satellite, helping us understand ocean flow and surface water life. Besides tracking aerosols, ecosystem interactions, cloud formation, and air quality.
A total of three sensors have been embedded in the PACE ocean-monitoring satellite. Using cutting-edge optical spectrometers, PACE’s Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) will monitor light qualities to expand ocean color data records for climate research. HARP2 is an expansive photographic polarimeter that evaluates aerosol particles, clouds, and characteristics of the land and ocean surfaces. SPEXone instrument will monitor sunlight intensity to characterize aerosols with high precision. This device will help gather data on ocean color-determining factors such as aerosols, clouds, and phytoplankton development.
NASA’s 10.5-foot-long PACE spacecraft will operate for at least three years. NASA anticipates the mission to live longer than its planned life since it has consumables that will last a decade. After launch, PACE will take 60 days to commission. 40 to 50 days after that, first light data will be made available.
The Trump administration threatened to reduce funding for the $964 million PACE project. In 2014, NASA set a cost ceiling of $805 million and a target liftoff date of 2022. However, according to Florida Today, the project’s costs went up to $948 million. The Trump administration attempted to end its mission three times in its budget proposals for fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020. Congress overruled the Trump administration’s budgetary restrictions, allowing the mission to reopen with funds.
With the launch of the PACE ocean-monitoring satellite, SpaceX’s ambitious plan is to launch 144 flights in 2024. Let’s hope for the best and also wait for other memorable scientific events scheduled in the year ahead.