The Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3) is a space instrument that will investigate important questions about the distribution of carbon dioxide on Earth as it relates to growing urban populations and changing patterns of fossil fuel combustion. OCO-3 explores, for the first time, daily variations in the release and uptake of carbon dioxide by plants and trees in the major tropical rain forests of South America, Africa, and South-East Asia, the largest stores of above ground carbon on our planet. Measuring the daily variations in these major carbon systems addresses an important missing component in our knowledge and is crucial for explaining global variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. NASA developed and assembled the instrument using spare materials from OCO-2.
OCO-3 would not have launched without the support of Dr. Michael Freilich, former Director for the NASA Earth Science Division, who had been a constant champion of NASA Earth Science missions. OCO-3 formulation and development work began with a mission concept review in 2012. The preliminary design review was conducted in 2014, but then funding for the project was cancelled in 2015. In 2016, funding was re-established and the project completed the more detailed designs and review in mid-2016; and then began building hardware. Despite the delay of the Federal budget for FY18, the OCO-3 project continued to progress, and was launched on May 4, 2019. We are grateful for his support.