NASA's OCO-2 Reaches Orbit Successfully on Second Try

NASA's OCO-2 Reaches Orbit Successfully on Second Try

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), a mission filled with many second chances, finally moved forward and upward in what officials called a perfect launch this morning (July 2) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

An initial launch attempt for OCO-2 was scrubbed yesterday during the final minute into the countdown that officials hours later attributed to a faulty valve in the launch pad water system that has since been replaced.

“Something we thought as simple as the water turning on turned out not to be simple,” said Geoff Yoder, deputy associate administrator for programs, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, at a post-launch news conference shortly after the launch.  “So today when it went through, we applauded,” he said with relief and laughter.

OCO-2 is the agency’s first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading human-produced greenhouse gas affecting climate change. The observatory replaces the original OCO that was lost in a launch failure in 2009.

Initial checkouts show “the spacecraft is healthy” and will start producing science data early next year, said Ralph Basilio, OCO-2 project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), at the press conference.  Basilio was one of the original OCO team members.  He and the other panelists congratulated one another and conveyed their excitement to “complete unfinished business.”

OCO-2 lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket under a foggy sky at 2:56 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT, 5:56 a.m. EDT), as scheduled.

Roughly 56 minutes into the flight, an onboard camera confirmed the successful separation of the spacecraft and rocket.

The mission is expected to last at least two years, officials said.

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