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NASA launches 'Age of Aquarius' to improve knowledge of Earths oceans

June 11, 2011 - Washington

NASA has launched the 'Age of Aquarius', an international satellite carrying the agency-built Aquarius instrument that will be able to measure the salinity of the Earths oceans and improve our understanding of the global water cycle and climate forecasts.

The Aquarius/SAC-D observatory rocketed into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Within 57 minutes of the launch, the observatory separated from the rocket's second stage and began activation procedures, establishing communications with ground controllers and unfurling its solar arrays.

"Aquarius is a critical component of our Earth sciences work, and part of the next generation of space-based instruments that will take our knowledge of our home planet to new heights," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

"Data from this mission will advance our understanding of the ocean and prediction of the global water cycle," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at agency headquarters in Washington.

Aquarius will be mapping the global open ocean once every seven days for at least three years with a resolution of 93 miles (150 kilometers). The maps will show how salinity of ocean surface changes each month, season and year.

Scientists are expecting to release the preliminary salinity maps later this year.


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