SpaceX Falcon 9
The twin satellites of GRACE-FO will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, part of a rideshare with Iridium, a satellite communications company. Five Iridium-NEXT satellites will be launched with two NASA satellites, which will be deployed into a separate low-Earth orbit. The rideshare is anticipated to launch out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by early 2018.
GRACE-FO will be injected into a nearly 300-mile altitude, near circular polar orbit like many of the satellites in NASA's Earth Observing System. In this orbit, satellites move around the Earth from pole to pole, taking about 99 minutes to complete each orbit. During half of the orbit, the satellites view the daytime side of Earth. At the pole, the satellites cross to the nighttime side of Earth.

The GRACE satellites were launched on March 17, 2002, aboard a Rockot Launch Vehicle
The GRACE satellites were launched on March 17, 2002, aboard a Rockot Launch Vehicle from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. Credit: Center for Space Research – The University of Texas at Austin

The GRACE spacecraft rode into orbit on the ROCKOT launch vehicle, GRACE-FO will be launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9.

As the satellites orbit, the Earth turns underneath. By the time the satellites cross back into daylight, they are over the region neighboring the area seen in its last orbit. In a 24-hour period, polar-orbiting satellites will view most of the Earth twice: once in daylight and once in darkness.

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