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May 11, 2012

NASA’s Aqua satellite, built by Northrop Grumman, celebrates 10th year on-orbit

Written by: Staff
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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – Built by Northrop Grumman, NASA’s Aqua satellite recently marked its 10th year on-orbit, delivering unprecedented data about the Earth’s climate, water cycle and much more.

Aqua launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., May 4, 2002.

One of the primary satellites in NASA’s Earth Observing System, Aqua is designed to help scientists understand the Earth and make more accurate weather and climate predictions. In its decade on-orbit, Aqua has rendered detailed views of dramatic events such as hurricanes, wildfires, the continued retreat of sea ice in the Arctic, plumes from volcanoes in Chile and Iceland, and tropical cyclones and hurricanes.

Data from Aqua’s six onboard instruments have given scientists high quality information needed to more accurately predict weather, advance climate studies, map sea surface temperatures and measure changes in the ozone layer.

“Aqua demonstrates the considerable benefits of long-term, space-based environmental monitoring. The strong performance of the satellite and instruments over the last decade is proof of the teamwork between our company, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the world’s leading scientists,” said Jeff Grant, vice president and general manager, space systems, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “We’re very proud to celebrate this milestone with the entire NASA team and all those the mission serves.”

Designed for a six-year mission life, Aqua is the second major satellite in NASA’s series of Earth Observing System spacecraft. Aqua provides scientists with about 89 gigabytes of data daily that are answering questions about hydrological processes in the atmosphere, on land and in the oceans.

“We are thrilled with the success of the Aqua mission so far, especially the widespread use of the Aqua data both for advancing Earth sciences and for practical applications,” said Claire Parkinson, Aqua project scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “In recent years, the number of science publications using Aqua data has exceeded 700 per year and the number of citations to Aqua publications has exceeded 10,000 per year.”

Over the past 10 years, Aqua data have enabled scientists to:

  • Create the first satellite-derived global map of mid-troposphere carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
  • Contribute to improved weather forecasts.
  • Create global fire maps.
  • Estimate atmospheric ozone concentrations from infrared measurements to complement the ultraviolet ozone measurements made from another Northrop Grumman-built NASA satellite, the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer – Earth Probe.
  • Map daily global sea surface temperatures and obtain local features such as the cold wake following a hurricane, leading to better understanding of ocean-atmosphere processes. Aqua’s images were seen on the news for two months in the buildup and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Map some of the effects of the Japan earthquake and resulting tsunami.



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