NASA’s PACE Satellite Launches, Set to Analyze Ocean Health, Air Quality, and Climate Change.

Mahek Baid
Mahek Baid February 8, 2024
Updated 2024/02/08 at 10:17 AM

On February 8, 2024, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) satellite, which aims to revolutionize our understanding of Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and climate. The PACE mission, which faced several political challenges and almost got cancelled, is a nearly $1 billion endeavor to provide crucial insights into our planet’s health.

PACE’s name stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem, reflecting its multifaceted goals. The mission aims to study the distribution and behavior of plankton, which forms the foundation of marine ecosystems; monitor aerosols, which impact climate and air quality; investigate cloud properties that play a crucial role in Earth’s energy balance; and observe phytoplankton, algae, and other marine life to reveal the intricate web of ocean health.

PACE will achieve three key objectives. Firstly, it will track phytoplankton blooms, assess their health, and study their role in carbon cycling to reveal the biology of our oceans at an unprecedented scale. Secondly, by measuring aerosols and clouds, PACE will enhance our understanding of air quality, climate change, and the delicate balance between Earth’s systems. Thirdly, PACE’s observations will allow scientists to assess the health of our oceans, from harmful algal blooms to nutrient cycles, providing critical data.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 at 1:33 a.m. EST, successfully deploying PACE into a sun-synchronous orbit approximately 420 miles (677 kilometers) above Earth. This orbit allows consistent lighting conditions, ideal for monitoring changes on our planet’s surface. The launch marked a significant shift, as polar launches have traditionally occurred from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

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