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Published 2004 | public
Journal Article

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) mission


The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) mission will make the first global, space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO_2) with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize CO_2 sources and sinks on regional scales. The measurement approach and instrument specifications were determined through an analysis of existing carbon cycle data and a series of observing system simulation experiments. During its 2-year mission, OCO will fly in a 1:15 PM sun-synchronous orbit with a 16-day ground-track repeat time, just ahead of the EOS Aqua platform. It will carry a single instrument that incorporates three bore-sighted high-resolution spectrometers designed to measure reflected sunlight in the 0.76-μm O_2 A-band and in the CO_2 bands at 1.61 and 2.06 μm. Soundings recorded in these three bands will be used to retrieve the column-averaged CO_2 dry air mole fraction (X_(CO)_2). A comprehensive validation program was included in the mission to ensure that the space-based X_(CO)_2 measurements have precisions of ∼0.3% (1 ppm) on regional scales. OCO measurements will be used in global synthesis inversion and data assimilation models to quantify CO_2 sources and sinks. While OCO will have a nominal lifetime of only 2 years, it will serve as a pathfinder for future long-term CO_2 monitoring missions.

Additional Information

© 2004 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Received 19 October 2002; received in revised form 5 April 2003; accepted 5 August 2003. Part of this work was performed for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology under contract to NASA. Significant contributions were made by Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation (a United Technologies Company) and Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 26, 2023