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NASA Awards Contract for Atmospheric Trace-Gas Monitoring Mission

NASA has awarded a contract to the University of Oklahoma in Norman for a first-of-its-kind Earth science mission that will extend our nation’s lead in measuring key carbon-based greenhouse gases and vegetation health from space to advance our understanding of Earth’s natural exchanges of carbon between the land, atmosphere and ocean.

Under the contract, the University of Oklahoma will lead the development of the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCarb), which will monitor plant health and vegetation stress throughout the Americas, and probe the natural sources, sinks and exchange processes that control carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane in the atmosphere.

The cost reimbursement contract has a value of $161 million and is anticipated to extend from July 1, 2017, to June 20, 2026.

The GeoCarb payload will launch on a commercial communications satellite to make observations over the Americas from a geosynchronous Earth orbit of approximately 22,000 miles above the equator. GeoCarb was competitively selected from 15 proposals submitted to NASA’s second Earth Venture Mission announcement of opportunity for small orbital investigations of the Earth system.

The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program. The Venture Class small, targeted science investigations complement the agency’s larger research missions. The National Academies 2007 Decadal Survey report, Earth Science and Applications from Space, recommended that NASA undertake these regularly solicited projects.

NASA’s Earth Venture missions, selected competitively at regular intervals, address new scientific priorities using cutting-edge instrumentation carried on airborne platforms, small satellites, or as secondary instruments or hosted payloads on larger platforms. NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, manages the ESSP program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

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