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Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)

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Status: Completed
Mission Category: Earth System Science Pathfinder Program
Launch Date: March 17, 2002
Launch Location: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia
Actual Completion Date: October 7, 2017

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission enabled the most precise measurements of Earth's mean and time-variable gravity field ever obtained and has led to advances in the fields of hydrology (continental and regional water balance, monitoring changes in aquifers), oceanography (studying ocean currents, ocean heat flux, ocean bottom pressure, sea-level rise), and solid-Earth sciences.

Key Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Facts

Mission/Portal Page:
Altitude:Distance from sea level. 485km
Inclination: 89°
Origination: Joint with Germany
Instruments: GPS (Black-Jack Global Positioning System Receiver)
HAIRS (High-Accuracy Inter-satellite Ranging System)
SCA (Star Camera Assembly)
SSA (SuperStar Accelerometer)
USO (Ultra Stable Oscillator)
Project Scientist(s): Bryon Tapley
Deputy Project Scientist(s): Frank Flechtner

Related Publications:

Relevant Science Focus Areas:

  • Climate Variability and Change
  • Earth Surface and Interior
  • Water and Energy Cycles

Relevant Science Questions:

  • How does the Earth system respond to natural and human-induced changes?
  • How is the global Earth system changing?
  • What are the primary forcings of the Earth system?

Science Goals:

  • Primary goal: Provide global, high-resolution estimates of the constant and time-variable part of Earth's gravity field, with unprecedented accuracy.
  • Secondary goal: Measure several hundred global atmospheric profiles per day to determine how GPS measurements are distorted by Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere.

Related Applications:

  • Disaster Management
  • Water Management