Gravity and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) has been successfully launched. After its launch, it has completed its first mission as well in less than three weeks. The primary mission of GRACE-FO was to help in explaining the performance of the microwave ranging system. A microwave ranging system’s function is to facilitate with a unique measurement which tells about how mass moves from one place to another around the planet.
Twin GRACE-FO satellites were carefully guided to its operational orbit formation which lies near about 220kms apart during its initial phase. Later the spacecraft system was monitored, and it was a found that its performance is meeting the expected level. Then the two primary instruments: accelerometer and microwave ranging system, both were activated. Accelerometer helps in measuring all the forces on satellite apart from gravity. These forces can be because of some solar radiation pressure.
The distance measurements which are received from a GRACE-FO microwave ranging system is highly accurate and precise.
In single orbit of the satellites, some gravity variation on earth is witnessed, and these variations are caused because of the massive range of mountains. For explaining the performance of GRACE-FO microwave ranging system at an initial stage, the team used to study the measurement of changes in distance. This change in range is witnessed when two satellites cross from the Himalayas.
A figure has shown the result of the study. It was dubbed by the team members who were working on it. The members named it as ‘The Himalaya Plot’. These figures tells us about the changes in the distance which was provided by the microwave ranging system. Using wavy lines, it was explained how the gap between both the satellites changes when they pass over different land, oceans and more. A sense of confidence was developed in the team when they got positive results from the microwave ranging system, and they learned that it is performing well.
GRACE-FO can detect all different variations which are caused within earth’s gravity as it can measure every minute changes in the distance between satellites as well.
Data received by GRACE-FO will be providing a deep insight into the changing climate of the earth. It will also provide details about changes in glaciers and our planet’s ice sheets. It is expected that information which will be received by GRACE-FO is going to benefit society to a large extent.