NASA launches satellite to study Earth’s poles

The PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission, led by NASA, launched its first cube satellite from Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, marking a significant step in understanding Earth’s energy budget. The shoebox-size cube satellite aims to measure the amount of heat Earth emits from its poles, contributing valuable data to improve predictions of climate change impacts.

The mission involves two CubeSats that will focus on the Arctic and Antarctic regions, providing researchers with crucial information on the planet’s energy balance. By accurately measuring far-infrared radiation, the PREFIRE mission will help scientists better comprehend the relationship between Earth’s heat absorption and release, aiding in forecasting ice melt, sea level rise, and changes in weather patterns.

NASA’s Earth Science Division Director, Karen St. Germain, emphasized the importance of the PREFIRE mission in enhancing our understanding of Earth’s system and its response to climate change. The data collected will support various sectors, including agriculture, fishing, and coastal communities, by offering insights into weather patterns and water changes.

The CubeSat successfully established communication with ground controllers, with the second satellite set to launch soon for a 10-month operation period following a 30-day checkout period. The mission will focus on capturing detailed measurements of Earth’s energy budget, shedding light on how far-infrared radiation affects the planet’s climate and temperature.

Laurie Wood, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, highlighted the critical role of the PREFIRE CubeSats in closing the gap in our knowledge about Earth’s energy balance. Despite their small size, the satellites’ observations will contribute significantly to advancing climate and weather models to address the challenges of global warming.

Led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in collaboration with NASA, the PREFIRE mission involved the development of the CubeSats equipped with thermal infrared spectrometers. These instruments will capture infrared wavelengths to understand the far-infrared radiation emitted from the Earth’s poles more accurately, supporting climate change research efforts.

NASA’s partnership with Rocket Lab USA Inc. for launch services under the VADRE contract showcases the agency’s commitment to advancing scientific research through innovative missions like PREFIRE. To stay updated on the mission’s progress and learn more about the PREFIRE project, visit NASA’s official website.

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