NASA head tours Orbital plant in Gilbert, gets first look at OCO-2 satellite - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

NASA head tours Orbital plant in Gilbert, gets first look at OCO-2 satellite

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Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013 2:30 pm | Updated: 6:01 pm, Fri Aug 9, 2013.

A tour of Orbital Sciences Corp. facility in Gilbert by NASA’s highest-ranking member on Aug. 9 provided a preview of a new satellite that will study earth’s carbon dioxide emissions starting next year.

NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden visited Orbital’s Gilbert plant alongside Orbital CEO David Thompson to see the new OCO-2 satellite that will measure CO2 levels from space to see the effects the greenhouse gas has on climate change.

Once it’s launched in 2014, OCO-2 will gather the first space-based measurements of CO2 levels — encompassing natural and man-made emissions — and that information will provide scientists data on the role CO2 has on climate change across the world. The mission life for the satellite is estimated for 24 months, although satellites can outlast the assigned lifespan for several years.

“The satellite should have been launched a long time ago,” Bolden said.

The comment stemmed from the marked change in climate the earth has undergone in recent decades, which Bolden said is already causing problems for the planet and even in the U.S. A notable effect he said climate change is having on the country is the continued erosion of the eastern seaboard. That’s the reason he said NASA won’t build any new launch pads along the East Coast.

“It’s not too late overall, but it is too late to reverse the trend that’s putting the East Coast underwater,” he said.

He added an issue NASA faces in trying to conduct climate change and other project is low funding, as he said NASA receives approximately 40 cents of every $100 the government spends.

“We can’t do everything people want us to do. And working under sequestration, it’s very, very, very, very difficult to do,” he said.

Bolden credited Orbital for its ability to build satellites within NASA’s budget, and added Orbital has worked with the space organization for 30 years and launched more than 150 of the company’s satellites.

Thompson said the Gilbert facility is one of two that builds satellites, and he said it is “some of the most exciting and rewarding work” the company does. Gilbert mayor John Lewis added Orbital’s presence is one reason the town has gained a prominent role in global issues.

“We have taken the tagline that we are now the satellite capital of the world,” Lewis said.

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