NASA launches two satellites into space on a mission to weigh Earth’s water

In the hopes of tracking the water on our planet, NASA has successfully launched two satellites into orbit.

The twin spacecraft, called GRACE-FO, lifted off on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California last night.

NASA has confirmed that the satellites are now at an altitude of about 305 miles, travelling at 16,800 miles/hour, meaning they circle Earth once every 90 minutes.

Thomas Zurbuchen, who worked on the launch, said: “GRACE-FO will provide unique insights into how our complex planet operates.

“Just as important, because the mission monitors many key aspects of the Earth’s water cycle, GRACE-FO data will be used throughout the world to improve people’s lives – from better predictions of drought impacts to higher quality information on use and management of water from underground aquifers.”

GRACE-FO will orbit Earth for five years, during which time it will monitor the movement of mass around our planet by measuring how the moving mass changes Earth’s gravitational pull.

The gravity changes cause the distance between the two satellites to vary slightly.

And while the two satellites orbit 137 miles apart, instruments on board can measure their separation to within the width of a human red blood cell.

NASA hopes that the data collected could shed light on the changes taking place in the climate system .

Frank Webb, who works on the GRACE-FO project, said: “Extending the data record from GRACE will allow us to better distinguish short-term variability from longer-term trends.”

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