Airbus Defence and Space has completed the construction of first of two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) satellites for Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, US.

Constructed at Airbus’s facility in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the satellite will now be transferred to the country’s IABG test centre to undergo operational testing activities.

Designed as a follow-on to the GRACE mission, Nasa’s JPL will launch the twin GRACE-FO research satellites into a polar orbit at a 500km altitude and a distance of 220km apart.

While orbiting around Earth, the satellites will be taking exact measurements of their separation distance, which changes depending on Earth’s gravity.

"While orbiting around Earth, the satellites will be taking exact measurements of their separation distance."

With the data provided by the satellites, scientists will be able to map the Earth’s gravitational fields.

Developed in partnership by Nasa and German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), the GRACE-FO satellites are planned to be launched by next year for a five-year mission period.

During the mission, the satellites will take measurements to provide an improved model of the Earth’s gravitational fields every 30 days.

Each of the GRACE-FO satellites will also provide up to 200 profiles of temperature distribution and water-vapour content for the atmosphere and the Ionosphere every day.

The satellites will also feature a new inter-satellite laser ranging instrument, which has been developed by a German/American joint venture (JV), and will be tested for use in future generations of gravitational research satellites.

Airbus noted that the second GRACE-FO satellite will be ready for testing in four weeks.

Airbus also said that it has completed the formation of Heavy Maintenance Singapore Services, a new maintenance and overhaul JV with Singapore’s SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC).

Image:  Airbus completes construction of one GRACE-FO satellite. Photo: courtesy of Airbus.