GRACE and GRACE-FO
Illustration of the twin GRACE satellites
|Names||GRACE-1 and GRACE-2 |
Tom and Jerry
ESSP-2A and ESSP-2B
|Mission type||Gravitational science|
|Operator||NASA · DLR|
|COSPAR ID||2002-012A and 2002-012B|
|SATCAT no.||27391 and 27392|
|Mission duration||Planned: 5 years |
Final: 15 years, 7 months, 9 days
|Launch mass||487 kg (1,074 lb) each|
|Dimensions||1.942 × 3.123 × 0.72 m (6.4 × 10.2 × 2.4 ft)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||17 March 2002, 09:21UTC|
|Launch site||Plesetsk LC-133/3|
|End of mission|
|Declared||27 October 2017|
|Decay date||GRACE-1: 10 March 2018,|
GRACE-2: 24 December 2017,
|Semi-major axis||6,873.5 km (4,271.0 mi)|
|Perigee altitude||483 km (300 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||508 km (316 mi)|
|Epoch||17 March 2002, 04:21 UTC|
The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was a joint mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Twin satellites took detailed measurements of Earth's gravity field anomalies from its launch in March 2002 to the end of its science mission in October 2017. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) is a continuation of the mission on near-identical hardware, launched in May 2018.
By measuring gravity anomalies, GRACE showed how mass is distributed around the planet and how it varies over time. Data from the GRACE satellites is an important tool for studying Earth's ocean, geology, and climate. GRACE was a collaborative endeavor involving the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas at Austin, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the German Aerospace Center and Germany's National Research Center for Geosciences, Potsdam. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was responsible for the overall mission management under the NASA ESSP (Earth System Science Pathfinder) program.
The two GRACE satellites (GRACE-1 and GRACE-2) were launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, on a Rockot (SS-19 + Breeze upper stage) launch vehicle on 17 March 2002. The spacecraft were launched to an initial altitude of approximately 500 km at a near-polar inclination of 89°. During normal operations, the satellites were separated by 220 km along their orbit track. This system was able to gather global coverage every 30 days. GRACE far exceeded its 5-year design lifespan, operating for 15 years until the decommissioning of GRACE-2 on 27 October 2017. Its successor, GRACE-FO, was successfully launched on 22 May 2018.
Discoveries and applications
The monthly gravity anomalies maps generated by GRACE are up to 1,000 times more accurate than previous maps, substantially improving the accuracy of many techniques used by oceanographers, hydrologists, glaciologists, geologists and other scientists to study phenomena that influence climate.
From the thinning of ice sheets to the flow of water through aquifers and the slow currents of magma inside Earth, mass measurements provided by GRACE help scientists better understand these important natural processes.
Oceanography, hydrology, and ice sheets
GRACE chiefly detected changes in the distribution of water across the planet. Scientists use GRACE data to estimate ocean bottom pressure (the combined weight of the ocean waters and atmosphere), which is as important to oceanographers as atmospheric pressure is to meteorologists. For example, measuring ocean pressure gradients allows scientists to estimate monthly changes in deep ocean currents. The limited resolution of GRACE is acceptable in this research because large ocean currents can also be estimated and verified by an ocean buoy network. Scientists have also detailed improved methods for using GRACE data to describe Earth's gravity field. GRACE data are critical in helping to determine the cause of sea level rise, whether it is the result of mass being added to the ocean - from melting glaciers, for example - or from thermal expansion of warming water or changes in salinity. High-resolution static gravity fields estimated from GRACE data have helped improve the understanding of global ocean circulation. The hills and valleys in the ocean's surface (ocean surface topography) are due to currents and variations in Earth's gravity field. GRACE enables separation of those two effects to better measure ocean currents and their effect on climate.
GRACE data have provided a record of mass loss within the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Greenland has been found to lose 280±58 Gt of ice per year between 2003 and 2013, while Antarctica has lost 67±44 Gt per year in the same period. These equate to a total of 0.9 mm/yr of sea level rise. GRACE data have also provided insights into regional hydrology inaccessible to other forms of remote sensing: for example, groundwater depletion in India and California. The annual hydrology of the Amazon basin provides an especially strong signal when viewed by GRACE.
A University of California, Irvine-led study published in Water Resources Research on 16 June 2015 used GRACE data between 2003 and 2013 to conclude that 21 of the world's 37 largest aquifers "have exceeded sustainability tipping points and are being depleted" and thirteen of them are "considered significantly distressed." The most over-stressed is the Arabian Aquifer System, upon which more than 60 million people depend for water.
GRACE also detects changes in the gravity field due to geophysical processes. Glacial isostatic adjustment—the slow rise of land masses once depressed by the weight of ice sheets from the last ice age—is chief among these signals. GIA signals appear as secular trends in gravity field measurements and must be removed to accurately estimate changes in water and ice mass in a region. GRACE is also sensitive to permanent changes in the gravity field due to earthquakes. For instance, GRACE data have been used to analyze the shifts in the Earth's crust caused by the earthquake that created the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
In 2006, a team of researchers led by Ralph von Frese and Laramie Potts used GRACE data to discover the 480-kilometer-wide (300 mi) Wilkes Land crater in Antarctica, which was probably formed about 250 million years ago.
Data from GRACE has improved the current Earth gravitational field model, leading to improvements in the field of geodesy. This improved model has allowed for corrections in the equipotential surface which land elevations are referenced from. This more accurate reference surface allows for more accurate coordinates of latitude and longitude and for less error in the calculation of geodetic satellite orbits.
GRACE is sensitive to regional variations in the mass of the atmosphere and high-frequency variation in ocean bottom pressure. These variations are well understood and are removed from monthly gravity estimates using forecast models to prevent aliasing. Nonetheless, errors in these models do influence GRACE solutions.
The spacecraft were manufactured by Astrium of Germany, using its "Flexbus" platform. The microwave RF systems, and attitude determination and control system algorithms were provided by Space Systems/Loral. The star cameras used to measure the spacecraft attitude were provided by Technical University of Denmark. The instrument computer along with a highly precise BlackJack GPS receiver and digital signal processing system was provided by JPL in Pasadena. The highly precise accelerometer that is needed to separate atmospheric and solar radiation pressure effects from the gravitation data was manufactured by ONERA.
GRACE is the first Earth-monitoring mission in the history of space flight whose key measurement is not derived from electromagnetic waves either reflected off, emitted by, or transmitted through Earth's surface and/or atmosphere. Instead, the mission uses a microwave ranging system to accurately measure changes in the speed and distance between two identical spacecraft flying in a polar orbit about 220 kilometers (140 mi) apart, 500 kilometers (310 mi) above Earth. The ranging system is sensitive enough to detect separation changes as small as 10 micrometers (approximately one-tenth the width of a human hair) over a distance of 220 kilometers. As the twin GRACE satellites circle the globe 15 times a day, they sense minute variations in Earth's gravitational pull. When the first satellite passes over a region of slightly stronger gravity, a gravity anomaly, it is pulled slightly ahead of the trailing satellite. This causes the distance between the satellites to increase. The first spacecraft then passes the anomaly, and slows down again; meanwhile the following spacecraft accelerates, then decelerates over the same point. By measuring the constantly changing distance between the two satellites and combining that data with precise positioning measurements from Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments, scientists can construct a detailed map of Earth's gravity anomalies.
The two satellites (nicknamed "Tom" and "Jerry") constantly maintain a two-way, K-band microwave-ranging link between them. Fine distance measurements are made by comparing frequency shifts of the link. This is made possible due to the onboard Ultra Stable Oscillator (USO) which produces the frequencies for the K-band ranging system. The micrometer-sensitivity of this measurement requires accordingly precise measurements of each spacecraft's position, motion, and orientation to be useful. To remove the effect of external, non-gravitational forces (e.g., drag, solar radiation pressure), the vehicles use sensitive Super STAR electrostatic accelerometers located near their respective centers of mass. GPS receivers are used to establish the precise positions of each satellite along the baseline between the satellites. The satellites use star cameras and magnetometers to establish attitude. The GRACE vehicles also have optical corner reflectors to enable laser ranging from ground stations using the Center of Mass Trim Assembly (MTA) which ensures the center of mass is modified throughout the flight accordingly.
CSR, GFZ, and JPL process observations and ancillary data downloaded from GRACE to produce monthly geopotential models of Earth. These models are distributed as spherical harmonic coefficients with a maximum degree of 60. Degree 90 products are also available. These products have a typical latency of 1–2 months. These geopotential coefficients may be used to compute geoid height, gravity anomalies, and changes in the distribution of mass on Earth's surface. Gridded products estimating changes in mass in units of liquid water equivalent thickness are available at JPL's GRACE Tellus website.
End of mission
Following an age-related battery issue on GRACE-2 in September 2017, it became apparent that GRACE-2's remaining battery capacity would not be sufficient to operate. Therefore, it was decided in mid-October to decommission the GRACE-2 satellite and end GRACE's science mission. Atmospheric reentry of GRACE-2 occurred on 24 December 2017 at approximately 00:16 UTC; atmospheric reentry of GRACE-1 took place on 10 March 2018 around 06:09 UTC.
Illustration of the twin GRACE-FO satellites
|Mission type||Gravitational science|
|Operator||NASA · DLR|
|COSPAR ID||2018-047A and 2018-047B|
|SATCAT no.||43476 and 43477|
|Mission duration||Planned: 5 years |
Elapsed: 2 years, 6 months, 8 days
|Manufacturer||Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium)|
|Launch mass||600 kg (1,300 lb) each|
|Dimensions||1.943 × 3.123 × 0.78 m (6.4 × 10.2 × 2.6 ft)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||22 May 2018, 19:47:58UTC|
|Launch site||Vandenberg AFB, California|
|Semi-major axis||6,872.2 km (4,270.2 mi)|
|Perigee altitude||481.7 km (299.3 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||506.3 km (314.6 mi)|
|Epoch||29 September 2019, 15:36:45 UTC|
The GRACE-FO mission, a collaboration between NASA and GFZ, was launched on 22 May 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg AFB, California, sharing the launch with five Iridium NEXT satellites. During in-orbit checks, an anomaly was discovered in the primary system component of the microwave instrument (MWI), and the system was temporarily powered down on 19 July 2018. After a full investigation by an anomaly response team at JPL, the backup system in the MWI was powered up on 19 October 2018 and GRACE-FO resumed its in-orbit checks. GRACE-FO entered the science phase of its mission on 28 January 2019.
The orbit and design of GRACE-FO is very similar to its predecessor. GRACE-FO employs the same two-way microwave-ranging link as GRACE, which will allow for similar inter-satellite ranging precision. In addition, GRACE-FO employs laser-ranging interferometry (LRI) as a technological experiment in preparation for future satellites. The LRI allows for more accurate inter-satellite ranging due to the shorter wavelength of light, and additionally allows the angle between the two spacecraft to be measured as well as their separation via differential wavefront sensing (DWS). Using the LRI, scientists have improved the precision of the separation distance measurements by a factor of more than 20 relative to the GRACE mission. Each laser on the LRI has about the same power as four laser pointers. These lasers must be detected by a spacecraft about 137 miles (220 kilometers) away. This laser approach will generate much more accurate measurements than the previous GRACE satellite mission.
The GRACE-FO satellites obtain electricity from gallium arsenide solar cell array panels covering the outside of each satellite.
GRACE-FO will continue to monitor Earth's gravity and climate. The mission will track gravitational changes in global sea levels, glaciers, and ice sheets, as well as large lake and river water levels, and soil moisture. In addition, each of the satellites will use GPS antennas to create at least 200 profiles per day of atmospheric temperature distribution and water vapor content, a first for the GRACE mission.
- Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), an earlier ESA gravity mapping mission
- Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), a similar NASA probe pair that mapped the Moon
- "GRACE 1". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- "GRACE 2". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- "GRACE (ESSP 2)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
- "GRACE Launch: Press Kit" (PDF). NASA. March 2002. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
- "Trajectory Details: GRACE 1". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
- NASA (27 October 2017). "Prolific Earth Gravity Satellites End Science Mission". Retrieved 31 October 2017.
- "Decay Data: GRACE-1". Space-Track. 10 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.[permanent dead link]
- "Decay Data: GRACE-2". Space-Track. 24 December 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2018.[permanent dead link]
- "Grace Space Twins Set to Team Up to Track Earth's Water and Gravity". NASA/JPL.
- "Mission Overview". University of Texas. 19 November 2008. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009.
- "Gravity Anomaly Maps and The Geoid". Earth Observatory. NASA. 30 March 2004. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
- Amos, Jonathan (7 June 2019). "Antarctic glaciers to honour 'satellite heroes'". BBC News. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "Antarctic Glaciers Named After Satellites". European Space Agency. 7 June 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "New Gravity Mission on Track to Map Earth's Shifty Mass". NASA/JPL.
- Rasmussen, Carol (1 November 2015). "NASA Finds New Way to Track Ocean Currents from Space". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
- Stillman, Dan (16 April 2007). "Measuring Gravity With GRACE". NASA. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
- Watkins, Michael M.; et al. (April 2015). "Improved methods for observing Earth's time variable mass distribution with GRACE using spherical cap mascons". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 120 (4): 2648–2671. Bibcode:2015JGRB..120.2648W. doi:10.1002/2014JB011547.
- Sullivant, Rosemary (14 June 2006). "NASA Missions Help Dissect Sea Level Rise". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
- Sullivant, Rosemary (26 August 2009). "Gravity data sheds new light on ocean, climate". NASA. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
- Velicogna, Isabella; Sutterly, T.C.; van den Broeke, M.R. (2014). "Regional acceleration in ice mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica using GRACE time-variable gravity data". J. Geophys. Res. Space Phys. 41 (119): 8130–8137. Bibcode:2014GeoRL..41.8130V. doi:10.1002/2014GL061052. hdl:1874/308354.
- Tiwari, V.M.; Wahr, J.; Swenson, S. (2009). "Dwindling groundwater resources in northern India, from satellite gravity observations". Geophysical Research Letters. 36 (18). L18401. Bibcode:2009GeoRL..3618401T. doi:10.1029/2009GL039401.
- Famiglietti, J (2011). "Satellites measure recent rates of groundwater depletion in California's Central Valley" (PDF). Geophys. Res. Lett. 38 (3). L03403. Bibcode:2011GeoRL..38.3403F. doi:10.1029/2010GL046442.
- Tapley, Byron D.; Bettadpur, Srinivas; Ries, John C.; Thompson, Paul F.; Watkins, Michael M. (2004). "GRACE Measurements of Mass Variability in the Earth System" (PDF). Science. 305 (5683): 503–505. Bibcode:2004Sci...305..503T. doi:10.1126/science.1099192. PMID 15273390.
- "Study: Third of Big Groundwater Basins in Distress". NASA. 16 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
- Tregoning; Ramillien; McQueen; Zwartz (2009). "Glacial isostatic adjustment and nonstationary signals observed by GRACE". J. Geophys. Res. 114 (B6): B06406. Bibcode:2009JGRB..114.6406T. doi:10.1029/2008JB006161. S2CID 15724840.
- Chang, Kenneth (8 August 2006). "Before the '04 Tsunami, an Earthquake So Violent It Even Shook Gravity". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- "Big Bang in Antarctica—Killer Crater Found Under Ice". Ohio State University. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016.
- "GRACE – Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment". University of Texas Center for Space Research. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
- "GRACE AOD1B". gfz-potsdam.de. GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
- Ge, Shengjie (2006). GPS radio occultation and the role of atmospheric pressure on spaceborne gravity estimation over Antarctica. Ohio State University. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
- Ciufolini, I.; Pavlis, E.C. (2004). "A confirmation of the general relativistic prediction of the Lense–Thirring effect" (PDF). Nature. 431 (7011): 958–960. Bibcode:2004Natur.431..958C. doi:10.1038/nature03007. PMID 15496915. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 June 2015.
- Ciufolini, I.; Pavlis, E.C.; Peron, R. (2006). "Determination of frame-dragging using Earth gravity models from CHAMP and GRACE". New Astron. 11 (8): 527–550. Bibcode:2006NewA...11..527C. doi:10.1016/j.newast.2006.02.001.
- "Spacecraft". GRACE Mission. NASA. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
- "GRACE PO.DAAC". JPL Physical Oceanography and Distributed Active Archive Center. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
- Wahr, John; Molenaar, M.; Bryan, F. (1998). "Time variability of the Earth's gravity field: Hydrological and oceanic effects and their possible detection using GRACE". J. Geophys. Res. 103 (B12): 30205–30229. Bibcode:1998JGR...10330205W. doi:10.1029/98JB02844. S2CID 140194666.
- "GRACE-FO 1". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
- "GRACE-FO 2". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
- "Twin Spacecraft Launch to Track Earth's Water Movement". NASA. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
- "GRACE-FO". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
- "GRACE-FO". eoPortal. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
- "GRACE-FO Launch Press Kit" (PDF). NASA. May 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
- "GRACE-FO 1 – Orbit". Heavens-Above.com. 29 September 2019. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "GRACE-FO Mission". NASA/JPL. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- Weitering, Hanneke (22 May 2018). "SpaceX Launches Twin NASA Probes to Track Earth's Water (and Satellites Hitch a Ride)". Space.com. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
- Rasmussen, Carol (1 November 2018). "GRACE-FO Resumes Data Collection". NASA. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
- Smith, Esprit (14 September 2018). "GRACE-FO Satellite Switching to Backup Instrument Processing Unit". NASA/JPL. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
- Webb, Frank; et al. (January–March 2019). "GRACE Follow-On Science Team & Highlights" (PDF). Science Data System Newsletter (2).
- "GRACE-FO: Tracking Earth's Mass in Motion" (PDF). NASA. 2017. NP-2017-4-002-GSFC.
- "Airbus Defence and Space to build two new research satellites for NASA" (Press release). Airbus Defence and Space. 29 November 2012. Archived from the original on 20 July 2014.
- "Spacecraft: Microwaves and Lasers". GRACE-FO. NASA/JPL. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
- "Laser Ranging Interferometer". GRACE-FO. NASA/JPL. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "GRACE Tellus: GRACE-FO". GRACE Tellus. NASA/JPL. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- "GRACE-FO - eoPortal Directory - Satellite Missions". earth.esa.int. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
- Johnston, Hamish (23 July 2019). "Distance between spacecraft measured at the atomic scale". PhysicsWorld. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "Lasers in Space: GRACE-FO Tests New Technology". GRACE-FO. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
- "Spacecraft Overview | Spacecraft". GRACE-FO. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
- "Solar Cell Arrays". GRACE-FO. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
- "GRACE-FO" (PDF). NASA Facts. NASA. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment.|
- GRACE website by the University of Texas
- GRACE Tellus website by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- GRACE Real-Time Data Analysis Portal by the University of Colorado
- GRACE Information System and Data Center by GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
- Dunn, Charles; et al. (February 2003). "Instrument of Grace: GPS augments gravity measurements". GPS World. 14 (2): 16–28. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012.
- on YouTube published on 16 May 2018 by NASA Goddard
- H2O:The Molecule That Made Us, a 2020 PBS documentary, covers GRACE in Episode 3: Crisis