How NASA Tests A Spacecraft's Resistance To Extreme Heat And Cold

NASA's OCO-2 spacecraft is subjected to extreme environments in Orbital Sciences' thermal vacuum chamber.

Before a satellite can be launched into space, NASA has to ensure that its multi-million-dollar baby can withstand the perils of floating above the atmosphere.

Recently, the agency moved the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), NASA's first spacecraft designed to study the Earth's atmospheric carbon dioxide from space, to a thermal vacuum chamber belonging to Orbital Sciences, the company launching the craft in mid-2014. Within this vacuum, the spacecraft and the instruments it carries are subjected to extreme heat, cold, and airlessness, similar to the conditions it will face in orbit.

Over a period of at least two years, OCO-2 will measure the way the sunlight bounces off the Earth's surface to figure out how much CO2 is distributed throughout the atmosphere.

[Image: Orbital Sciences Corporation/NASA/JPL-Caltech]

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