SpaceX Launched the ESA EarthCARE Mission Yesterday

The goal of the mission - a joint effort by the ESA and JAXA - is to improve future climate models and support numerical weather prediction.

(Vandenberg, California) Yesterday, on Tuesday, May 28th, SpaceX launched the Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (ESA EarthCARE) mission to low-Earth orbit (LEO) from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 3:20 p.m. PT (6:20 p.m. ET / 2220 GMT).

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Photo of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launching the Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (ESA EarthCARE) mission for the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) courtesy of SpaceX on Instagram, @spacex.

Per SpaceX, the mission marked the seventh launch and landing for the supporting Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously launched Crew-7, CRS-29, PACE, Transporter-10, and two Starlink missions.

The launch marked the second of the day for SpaceX following its Starlink 6-60 mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida earlier in the morning.

The booster landed successfully back at Vandenberg roughly eight minutes after launch; about 2.5 minutes later, the Falcon 9's upper stage deployed EarthCARE into orbit as planned, according to Space.com.

EarthCARE is a cooperative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that intends to examine the role that clouds and aerosols play in reflecting solar radiation back into space and trapping infrared radiation emitted from Earth's surface," according to the ESA.

Per the ESA, EarthCARE is the most complex of all of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions - more broadly, the goal of the mission is to quantify and reduce uncertainty about the role that clouds and aerosols play in heating and cooling Earth’s atmosphere, and therefore contribute to our better understanding of climate change.

According to the ESA, the data obtained from the EarthCare mission is intended to improve the accuracy of both cloud development models and their behavior, composition and interaction with aerosols, and to improve future climate models and support numerical weather prediction.

A BBC article explained the mission and offered insight from several experts, explaining that “some low-level clouds are known to cool the planet, others at high altitude will act as a blanket. The Earthcare mission will use a laser and a radar to probe the atmosphere to see precisely where the balance lies.”

Dr. Robin Hogan from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts commented, “Many of our models suggest cloud cover will go down in the future and that means that clouds will reflect less sunlight back to space, more will be absorbed at the surface and that will act as an amplifier to the warming we would get from carbon dioxide.”

Dr. Helen Brindley from the UK’s National Centre for Earth Observation also spoke with the BCC and explained: "The balance between this outgoing total amount of radiation and the amount coming in from the Sun is what fundamentally drives our climate. If we change that balance, for example by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, we reduce the amount of outgoing energy compared to what's coming in and we heat the climate."

A complete list of previous ESA launches is available at this link.

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