NASA launches a $465 million satellite, designed to measure where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is moving into and out of the atmosphere. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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NASA launched an unmanned Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Wednesday, following the liftoff cancelation a day earlier when the launch pad's water system failed.
The rocket is carrying carries NASA's $465 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory. Built by Orbital Sciences Corp, it is designed to measure where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is moving into and out of the atmosphere.
More than 50 years of measurements show that about half the amount of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere - by natural processes and human activities - end up being reabsorbed.
The proportion has remained fairly constant even as the total amount of atmospheric carbon has climbed from concentrations of 315 parts per million in the 1950s to 400 parts per million today, studies by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography show.
The observatory will be positioned 438 miles (705 km) above the planet and inclined so that it passes over the same point on Earth at the same time every 16 days, giving scientists insight into how levels of carbon dioxide change over weeks, months and years.
Because the observatory's target areas will be small - about 1 square mile (3 square km) - scientists expect to be able to pinpoint top carbon emitters, though monitoring is not among the mission's goals.
NASA hoped to have OCO flying in 2009, but a launch accident claimed the satellite. Congress agreed to fund a replacement, OCO-2.
The rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co , was first due to lift off on July 1 from a launch pad that had not been used in nearly three years.
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