Viewing NASA’s PACE Satellite Launch Tonight: A Guide

NASA is preparing to launch a new satellite mission geared at studying Earth’s atmosphere and oceans to gain insights into their interactions with the changing climate. The mission, known as PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), is slated to be launched from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on February 6. The spacecraft will be carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The PACE spacecraft will enter a sun-synchronous orbit, maintaining a constant position relative to the sun. This type of orbit is ideal for Earth-observing satellites as it ensures that the sun is always overhead during observations. Scott Patano, flight dynamics system development lead for PACE at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, stated that this orbit allows for consistent measurements as the sun’s position remains the same for each measurement taken by the satellite.

The decision to launch the mission after midnight is also closely related to the sun-synchronous orbit. By launching at this time, the satellite can directly enter its final orbit and cross the equator for the first time near India at about 1 p.m. local time. However, the launch is highly dependent on weather conditions, with only a 40% chance of favorable weather for the early Tuesday launch. If the weather does not cooperate, an alternative launch time on early Wednesday has been set.

NASA plans to live-stream the launch, which is scheduled for 1:33 a.m. ET on Tuesday, February 6, with coverage beginning at 12:45 a.m. ET. The live coverage can be accessed through various platforms including NASA’s YouTube channel and the NASA+ app, which is available for free download.

The PACE mission is a part of NASA’s larger efforts to observe Earth and study its climate and ecosystems. The data gathered by the spacecraft will contribute to the existing body of knowledge on climate change and its effects on Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.

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