Launch: 17 March 2002, 10.21 a.m. CET
The "twin satellites" of the GRACE mission (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) successfully took off into orbit on time on 17 March 2002 at 10.21 a.m. CET on a Rockot launcher from the Russian spaceport Plesetsk. DLR’s ground control station at Weilheim succeeded in making contact with the satellite pair, dubbed "Tom and Jerry", about 90 minutes after launch.
The US-German mini-satellite mission GRACE helps scientists to derive a new model of the Earth’s gravitational field with unprecedented accuracy. The following questions are addressed: Are the polar ice-caps melting? Are sea levels rising? Are we likely to face major flooding? Why do warm ocean currents like the gulf stream extend so far up into the Earth’s northern hemisphere, and what role does the influence of gravitation play in that context?
GRACE is a joint project of the US space agency, NASA, and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). The DLR Space Operations Centre is responsible for mission management and satellite operation. The GRACE "twin satellites" were built by Astrium in Friedrichshafen. They were launched into orbit by the Russo-German company Eurockot on a Russian launch vehicle. The University of Texas (UTCSR) and the GeoReseach Centre Potsdam (GFZ) are in charge of scientific data evaluation.