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NASA Launches First Climate Satellite to Study Polar Heat Emissions.


Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 at Māhia, New Zealand at 7:41 p.m. NZST on May 25, 2024 (3:41 a.m. EDT) carrying a small satellite for NASA’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission.

The first of two climate satellites designed to analyze heat emissions at Earth’s poles has successfully entered orbit. Launched by Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, New Zealand, the satellite lifted off at 7:41 p.m. NZST (3:41 a.m. EDT) on Saturday. This mission, named PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment), involves two CubeSats that will measure the heat radiated from Earth’s polar regions into space.

The PREFIRE mission aims to enhance predictions regarding changes in Earth’s ice, seas, and weather by providing detailed data on the far-infrared radiation emitted from the Arctic and Antarctic. This data is crucial for understanding how the energy budget of our planet influences climate and temperature.

Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, highlighted the mission’s importance: “NASA’s innovative PREFIRE mission will fill a gap in our understanding of the Earth system – providing our scientists a detailed picture of how Earth’s polar regions influence how much energy our planet absorbs and releases.” She noted that this information is vital for farmers, fishing fleets, and coastal communities adapting to climate change.

Following a successful communication with the CubeSat at 8:48 EDT, the second PREFIRE satellite is scheduled to launch shortly. Both satellites will undergo a 30-day checkout period to ensure functionality before commencing their 10-month operational period.

Central to the PREFIRE mission is the study of Earth’s energy budget — the balance of incoming solar energy and outgoing heat. This balance determines global climate and temperature. Currently, the far-infrared radiation from the polar regions is not well-measured. PREFIRE aims to address this gap, focusing on how atmospheric water vapor and cloud properties influence heat radiation.

Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, emphasized the mission’s impact: “The PREFIRE CubeSats may be small, but they’re going to close a big gap in our knowledge about Earth’s energy budget.” The PREFIRE CubeSats carry thermal infrared spectrometers, miniaturized to fit the CubeSat format, which measure infrared wavelengths using specialized mirrors and sensors.

Tristan L’Ecuyer, PREFIRE’s principal investigator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointed out the urgency of the mission: “Our planet is changing quickly, and in places like the Arctic, in ways that people have never experienced before.”

The PREFIRE mission, developed by NASA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and supported by Blue Canyon Technologies, which built the CubeSats. The data collected will be processed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with launch services provided by Rocket Lab USA Inc. under NASA’s VADR launch services contract.

Surendra Uikey

My name is Surendra Uikey, I am a science blogger, I have been blogging for the past three years, because I love to write, especially on astronomy, and I believe, if you want to learn something, then start learning others, By this it will be, that you learn things in a better way. In 2019, I started, the aim of making was to connect astronomy in simple words to common people.

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