Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3)
Japanese Experiment Module exterior - cropped.jpg
The Japanese Experiment Module, EFU 3 is the occupied location second from the left.
ManufacturerJet Propulsion Laboratory[1]
Instrument typeGrating spectrometer
FunctionAtmospheric CO2 and SIF
Mission duration3 years (nominal)
Elapsed: 3 years, 2 months, 21 days
Mass500 kg (1,100 lb)[2]
Dimensions1.85 × 1.0 × 0.8 m (6.1 × 3.3 × 2.6 ft)
Power consumption600 W
ResolutionLess than 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi)
Spectral band2.06 microns
1.61 microns
0.765 microns[3]
Data rate8 footprints, 3 Hz (24 per second)
Host spacecraft
SpacecraftInternational Space Station
Launch date4 May 2019, 06:48 UTC
RocketFalcon 9
Launch siteCape Canaveral, SLC-40

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) is a NASA-JPL instrument designed to measure carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. The instrument is mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module-Exposed Facility on board the International Space Station (ISS).[4] OCO-3 was scheduled to be transported to space by a SpaceX Dragon from a Falcon 9 rocket on 30 April 2019,[5] but the launch was delayed to 3 May, due to problems with the space station's electrical power system.[6] This launch was further delayed to 4 May due to electrical issues aboard Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY), the barge used to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage.[7] OCO-3 was launched as part of CRS-17 on 4 May 2019 at 06:48 UTC.[8] The nominal mission lifetime is three years.[3]

OCO-3 was assembled using spare materials from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite.[4] Because the OCO-3 instrument is similar to the OCO-2 instrument, it is expected to have similar performance with its measurements used to quantify CO2 to 1 ppm precision or better at 3 Hz.[9]

History and timeline

Instrument design

OCO-3 is constructed from spare equipment from the OCO-2 mission. Thus its physical characteristics are similar, but with some adaptations. A 2-axis pointing mirror was added, which will allow targeting of cities and other areas on order of 100 by 100 km (62 by 62 mi) for area mapping (also called "snapshot mode").[3][17][19] A 100 m (330 ft) resolution context camera was also added.[17] An onboard cryocooler will maintain detector temperatures of around −120 °C (−184 °F).[20] Entrance optics were modified to maintain a similar ground footprint to OCO-2.[3]

Similar to OCO and OCO-2, the main measurement will be of reflected near-IR sunlight. Grating spectrometers separate incoming light energy into different components of the electromagnetic spectrum (or wavelengths or "colors"). Because CO2 and molecular oxygen absorb light at specific wavelengths, the signal or absorption levels at different wavelengths provide information on the amount of gases.[20] Three bands are used called Weak CO2 (around 1.6 μm), Strong CO2 (around 2.0 μm), and Oxygen-A (around 0.76 μm).[3] There are 1,016 spectral elements per band, and measurements are made simultaneously at 8 side-by-side locations or "footprints" each about 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi) or smaller, 3 times per second.

Expected data use

Overall measurements from OCO-3 will help quantify sources and sinks of carbon dioxide from terrestrial ecosystems, the oceans, and from anthropogenic sources. Due to the ISS orbit, measurements will be made at latitudes less than 52°. Data from OCO-3 are expected to significantly improve understanding of global emissions from human activities, for example, using measurements over cities.[9] Near simultaneous observations from other instruments onboard the International Space Station such as ECOSTRESS (measuring plant temperatures) and Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation lidar (measuring forest structure) may be combined with OCO-3 observations to help improve the understanding of the terrestrial ecosystem. Similar to OCO-2, OCO-3 will also measure Solar Induced Fluorescence which is a process that occurs during plant photosynthesis.[3][21]

See also


  1. ^ NASA.gov
  2. ^ Eldering, Annmarie (2013). The OCO-3 Mission: An Overview (PDF). 9th International Workshop on Greenhouse Gas Measurements from Space. 29–31 May 2013. Yokohama, Japan.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Eldering, Annmarie; Taylor, Tommy E.; O'Dell, Chris W.; Pavlick, Ryan (2018). "The OCO-3 mission; measurement objectives and expected performance based on one year of simulated data". Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions: 1–54. doi:10.5194/amt-2018-357.
  4. ^ a b "Mission to Earth: Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  5. ^ Sarah, Loff. "SpaceX CRS-17 Launch Now Scheduled for April 30". NASA. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  6. ^ Derek Richardson (30 April 2019). "Space station power problem delays CRS-17 Dragon launch". spaceflightinsider.com. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  7. ^ @SpaceX (3 May 2019). "Standing down today due to an electrical issue on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship. Teams will also address the ground side helium leak before tomorrow's backup launch opportunity at 06:48 UTC" (Tweet). Retrieved 6 May 2019 – via Twitter.
  8. ^ Potter, Sean (May 4, 2019). "SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo". nasa.gov. NASA. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Martin, David. "OCO-3 Quick Facts". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Bergin, Chris (February 24, 2009). "Orbital's Taurus XL fails during Orbiting Carbon Observatory spacecraft launch". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Atkinson, Nancy (February 1, 2010). "NASA Budget Details: Constellation Cancelled, But Where To Next?". Universe Today. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c Martin, David. "OCO-3 History". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  13. ^ "OCO-3 Mission". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Archived from the original on April 15, 2019. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  14. ^ Werner, Debra (December 17, 2015). "NASA Reviving Effort To Put Spare Orbiting Carbon Observatory Sensor on ISS". Space News. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  15. ^ "A grim budget day for U.S. science: analysis and reaction to Trump's plan". Science. March 16, 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  16. ^ Siegel, Ethan (March 23, 2018). "Winners And Losers In NASA's Budget For 2018 And Beyond". Forbes. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c Eldering, Annmarie (2018). The OCO-3 Mission: Science Objectives and Instrument Performance (PDF). 14th International Workshop on Greenhouse Gas Measurements from Space. 8–10 May 2018. Toronto, Ontario.
  18. ^ "May the 4th be with you: SpaceX CRS-17 Dragon launches to ISS". May 4, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Crisp, David; et al. (September 9, 2018). "A Constellation Architecture for Monitoring Carbon Dioxide and Methane from Space" (PDF). Committee on Earth Observation Satellites. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  20. ^ a b Martin, David. "OCO-3 Instrument". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  21. ^ "PIA18935: Global Solar-Induced Fluorescence". NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. December 18, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2019.