Orbiting Carbon Observatory

SDL designed, manufactured, and tested the cryogenic subsystem for the three focal plane assemblies of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), for the NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder program. SDL was responsible for thermal design and analysis, including temperature‐induced shift; structural design and analysis; contamination analysis; procurement and fabrication; acceptance testing (thermal, structural, optical); and post‐delivery support.

OCO’s three focal plane assemblies are mounted to the cryogenic subsystem, which thermally isolates the focal planes from the instrument and provide a low‐impedance thermal interface to the cryocooler. The hardware meets stringent requirements for stability, temperature, heat flow, contamination, mass, and volume. The flexible thermal link and the FPA carriers were sized to passively maintain two focal planes near 120 K and 180 K.

The original OCO spacecraft was lost in a launch failure in February 2009. SDL provided a build-to-print copy of the cryogenic subsystem for OCO-2, which launched on July 2, 2014. OCO-2 is providing preliminary global maps of carbon dioxide concentrations and a related phenomenon known as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence. This data will help scientists better understand how carbon dioxide is distributed around the globe and changes with the seasons. The data will be used to identify the sources and storage places, or sinks, of carbon dioxide, the most significant human-produced greenhouse gas driving global climate change.