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Europe to forge ahead on climate satellite

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) Feb 18, 2011
European space officials say they will press ahead with a planned Earthcare space laser mission despite a 30 percent increase in its likely final cost.

The European Space Agency satellite will study the role clouds and atmospheric particles play in a changing climate, but difficulties in finalizing a workable design for the spacecraft's laser-based instrument are driving its total budget past $800 million, the BBC reported Friday.

Delegates to the 18-nation ESA meeting this week accepted the findings of a review that assessed the technical risks of proceeding, saying they are convinced that Earthcare will deliver invaluable climate data.

Earthcare is one of ESA's proposed Earth Explorers, a series of satellites that will gather scientific data on issues of pressing environmental concern.

Three such missions have already gone into orbit, returning new information on gravity, polar ice cover, soil moisture and ocean salinity.

Problems in developing the primary laser-based Earthcare instrument that will reliably work in the vacuum of space have added $190 million to the project's cost, the BBC said. The complication has delayed the probable launch date by two years, to at least 2016.

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