TIMELINE: CSR'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO GRACE, THE FIRST 5 YEARS...
March 17, 2002 - From Plesetsk, Russia, a Rockot launcher carries the twin satellites of the U.S./German mission GRACE into space, for an expected five-year mission. The satellites begin orbiting about 300 miles above Earth. Engineers at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Space Research begin analysis of GRACE data monthly to share with researchers worldwide. The international mission team led by Aerospace Engineering Professor Byron Tapley at the Center for Space Research includes NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the German national Research Center for Geosciences (GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam), and the German Space Operations Center of the German Space Agency (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt). http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/2002030667/index.cfm
Nov. 2002 - Popular Science magazine selects GRACE, a NASA/German Aerospace Agency mission, as being among the "Best of What's New" in their aviation and space category. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/20021112393/index.cfm
July 2003 - Dr. Byron Tapley at The University of Texas at Austin and his Center for Space Research colleagues present the initial GRACE model of variations in Earth's gravity field data to GRACE researchers at a International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics meeting. The GRACE model is 10 to 50 times more accurate than previous models. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/20030721488/index.cfm
July 2004 - Dr. Don Chambers at The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Space Research and colleagues use GRACE data to provide the first direct measurement of seasonal exchanges of water between land and oceans. Validating this capability was key to using GRACE data to study the role of oceans in climate studies.
Aug. 2004 - Dr. Byron Tapley at The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues release the GRACE models for general scientific use, helping make climate change studies more accurate. In a Science article, the engineers show how GRACE satellite data can track the changing water content of the Amazon basin. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/20040803636/index.cfm
Oct. 2004 - The Center for Space Research unveils GGM02, a major refinement of the Earth's gravity model, meeting an important mission goal set by NASA. The revised model of Earth's gravity field clearly demonstrates that GRACE is very useful for studying the planet's oceans and crust.
April 2005 - Senior officials at NASA rank GRACE among its best missions, calling its science results "compelling", and extending the mission timeframe by two years until Sept. 2009.
Dec. 2005 - Dr. Byron Tapley and other mission researchers attend American Geophysical Union meeting to present GRACE data demonstrating the impact of the Dec. 2004 Great Sumatra Earthquake on Earth's gravity field. Other researchers also use results from the Center for Space Research to demonstrate global warming-related ice loss from Greenland, and detailed movements of the world's strongest ocean current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/20051205965/index.cfm
March 2006 - Dr. Isabella Velicogna and Dr. John Wahr from the University of Colorado, Boulder, use GRACE data to detect a significant loss of ice from the Antarctic ice sheet between 2002 and 2005. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/200603031012/index.cfm
Aug. 2006 - Dr. Jianli Chen from the Center for Space Research at The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues demonstrate in the journal Science that GRACE data reveal the location of the dramatic increase in ice melt from Greenland. The ice melt primarily on the island nation's southeastern region could impact weather in Western Europe. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/200608101082/index.cfm
Dec. 2006 - Dr. Jay Famiglietti at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues use GRACE for first-ever look at seasonal changes in water storage tied to the more than 50 river basins that cover most of Earth's land area. The results are presented at an American Geophysical Union meeting. http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/articles/200612131144/index.cfm
Feb. 2007 - The Center for Space Research unveiled a third refinement of the model for the Earth's mean (static) gravity field. The gravitational signal for features as small as 200 km in size can be seen from space in the GRACE data.
March 2007 - The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Space Research and colleagues celebrate the five-year anniversary of the GRACE mission. Discover magazine also runs a feature titled "GRACE IN SPACE" about the mission's research findings.
Discover Magazine article (PDF)
May 2007 - US and Canadian scientists have used the gravity measurements from GRACE to determine that the ancient ice sheets over Canada consisted of two major ice domes rather than a single massive dome. Their analysis also indicates that post-glacial rebound is not the only source of the observed gravity changes; mantle convection also appears to play an important role.