U.S, Germany Sign Space Mission Extension

WASHINGTON, June 10 (UPI) — The U.S. and German space agencies say they have signed an agreement to extend the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment space mission.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and German Aerospace Center Executive Board Chairman Johann-Dietrich Worner signed the agreement Thursday in Berlin,


The two-satellite mission, known as GRACE, was launched in 2002 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia to track changes in Earth’s gravity field by measuring changes in the distance between the spacecraft to one-hundredth the width of a human hair. The spacecraft are in the same polar orbit approximately 137 miles apart and 200 miles above the Earth, with their on-orbit life expected to end in 2015.

The United States and Germany jointly developed the the twin satellite mission. NASA provided the instruments and selected satellite components, plus data validation and archiving. Germany provided the primary satellite components, launch services and operations.

Officials said GRACE’s monthly maps are as much as 100 times more accurate than existing maps, substantially improving the accuracy of techniques used by oceanographers, hydrologists, glaciologists, geologists and climate scientists.

More information about the GRACE mission is available at http://science.nasa.gov/missions/grace.

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