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NASA's Atmosphere-Monitoring Satellite Will Measure CO2

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 is an atmosphere-monitoring satellite that will study carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere.

NASA's Atmosphere-Monitoring Satellite Will Measure CO2
NASA / Bill Ingalls
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NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, is a satellite built to study carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. (Via NASA / 30th Space Wing, U.S. Air Force)

"The Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, NASA's first satellite dedicated to studying carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. ... Creating the clearest picture ever of global carbon dioxide ... not just as a snapshot in time, but as patterns over weeks, months and years." (Via NASA)

According to NASA, OCO-2 collects about one million measurements each day, and about 100,000 of those are viable for data collection. The satellite "studies carbon dioxide by looking at the colors (or wavelengths) of sunlight that carbon dioxide absorbs."

Translation: Because CO2 absorbs certain wavelengths of light, OCO-2 looks at those wavelengths to determine CO2 amounts. The satellite was scheduled to launch Tuesday at 2:56 a.m. Pacific Time. But due to equipment failure, NASA was forced to scrub the launch.

According to OCO-2's Twitter account, the launch pad's water system failed, and the countdown was haulted at T-46 seconds. NASA has yet to announce a relaunch date. (Via Twitter / IamOCO2)

With a narrow launch window of 30 seconds, that's really no surprise. The team must launch the satellite within that time, because "the spacecraft needs to be precisely aligned within a series of Earth-observing satellites known as the 'A-Train.'" (Via NASA / Bill Ingalls)

NASA says it will take about six to seven weeks for OCO-2 to align with the A-Train satellites. The observatory will begin to collect data 45 days after launch.