The Argentine National Space Activities Commission (CONAE, in Spanish) dependent on the Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services informs that the Argentine satellite SAC-D Aquarius concluded its operational service. After having succeeded in its mission of studying the ocean, the climate and the environment, which had been expected to last three years according to its original design, the SAC-D Aquarius fulfilled its objective on the eve of its fifth year in orbit.
Among its main achievements, mention should be made to the global map of the surface salinity of the seawater, the first of its kind worldwide; the regional weather forecast improvement thanks to the information on the sea ice in polar regions provided by their monitoring; the follow-up of the Antarctic glaciers dynamics; the observation of the hurricanes formation on the Atlantic Ocean; and the extreme melting of superficial ice in Greenland in 2012. These achievements, among others, had already been accomplished by the SAC-D Aquarius mission by June 2014, when it completed its third year in orbit, as planned at the beginning of the project. Since it was sent into orbit, all the scientific goals established by the International Scientific Group of the Mission, which included research projects from Argentina, USA, Italy and Japan, have been met.
In particular, the Aquarius was instrumental in producing maps of the surface salinity of the world seas every week, which provided unprecedented information for the study of the climatic change in the planet. The microwave radiometer (MWR) provided data that will allow to know better the oceans and their nearby atmosphere. Besides, the calibration of the thermal camera (NIRST) let the sea temperature variations to be analyzed in detail. Also, transmitters of the data collector system (DCS) were installed in several places of the country, including the Antarctica –an excellent tool to monitor and study glaciers from far away, since with this technology inaccessible places, especially in winter, may be reached, as it happened with the Gourdon Glacier in the Antarctic Peninsula. Through the DCS instrument of the SAC-D Aquarius, data from the satellite were directly transferred to the researchers’ computers. Also, some photographs of the white continent during the winter season could be taken thanks to a high sensitivity camera (HSC). The French instrument Carmen 1 got information about the cosmic radiation effects on electronic devices. The technological objectives of the Argentine Technological Demonstration (TDP) package were reasonably attained. Moreover, work has been carried out on the application of MWR’s products on earth and of Aquarius’ products to get information about the soil moisture. Both products were part of a test prior to the SAOCOM mission, consisting in manufacturing CONAE’s next radar satellites, which are already being built.
The SAC-D Aquarius mission has been carried out, in the context of the international space cooperation, by the CONAE and its main partner, the NASA, which provided the most important instrument, the Aquarius satellite, and was in charge of its launching. The space agencies of Italy (ASI), France (CNES), Canada (CSA) and Brazil (AEB/INPE) also contributed to this mission. Likewise, several national organizations belonging to the National System of Scientific and Technological Innovation, such as the National Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA, in Spanish), the National University of La Plata (UNLP), the Argentine Institute of Radioastronomy (IAR, in Spanish), the Optics Research Center (CIOP) dependent on the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET, in Spanish), the National Technological University (UTN, in Spanish) and the Aeronautical University lnstitute (IUA, in Spanish) participated in the satellite building process. The cooperation of some Argentine state-owned technological companies was also outstanding. INVAP.S.E. (Argentine state-owned applied research company) was CONAE’s main contractor. It built the satellite platform, assembled scientific instruments within different subsystems, and was in charge of a great number of environmental tests which were necessary for the satellite launching. The satellite SAC-D Aquarius was launched to its orbit on June 10, 2011 from the Vandenberg US Air Force Base, with the Delta II launcher.
The national and international research groups, and users in general, will be now able to access all the information and products provided by the mission for years or even decades ahead.
For more information about the SAC-D Aquarius mission and its achievements visit:
Visit the Picture Gallery of the SAC-D Aquarius Satellite Mission
Argentine National Space Activities Commission (CONAE, in Spanish)