Technicians inspect the twin GRACE Follow-On satellites
Technicians inspect the twin GRACE Follow-On satellites and their multi-satellite dispenser at the SpaceX facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellites were subsequently stacked atop another satellite dispenser containing the five Iridium NEXT communications satellites they will share a ride to orbit with. Credit: Iridium Communications Inc.
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Media are invited to cover the prelaunch briefing and launch of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO), NASA's latest Earth-observing satellite mission. The briefing on Thursday, May 17, and launch on Saturday, May 19, will air on NASA Television, the agency's website and

A joint mission with the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), GRACE-FO will provide critical measurements that will be used together with other data to monitor the movement of water masses across the planet and mass changes within Earth itself. Monitoring changes in ice sheets and glaciers, underground water storage and sea level provides a unique view of Earth's climate and has far-reaching benefits. The mission is planned to fly at least five years.

The prelaunch news briefing will be held at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) May 17 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Media who wish to participate by phone must contact Elena Mejia at or 818-354-1712, no later than 9:30 a.m. May 17.

Media and the public also may ask questions during the event via social media using the hashtag #askNASA.

Briefing participants will be:

  • David Jarrett, GRACE-FO program executive in the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
  • Frank Flechtner, GRACE-FO project manager at GFZ in Potsdam, Germany
  • Phil Morton, NASA GRACE-FO project manager at JPL
  • Capt. Jennifer Haden, weather officer for the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg.

Media who are accredited to attend the prelaunch briefing in person should confirm their participation with Lt. Amy Rasmussen of the 30th Space Wing Public Affairs Office at no later than 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) on Monday, May 14.

Accredited media desiring to cover the event should meet at the south gate of Vandenberg on California State Road 246 at 10 a.m. to be escorted by 30th Space Wing Public Affairs to the news conference. Media must present a valid driver's license or passport to receive a base pass.

The satellites are scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 1:04 p.m. PDT (4:04 p.m. EDT) from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg. The launch window is instantaneous. GRACE-FO will share its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. Spacecraft separation from the rocket will occur approximately 11.5 minutes after launch. The spacecraft's final circular, near-polar orbit will be 305 miles (490 kilometers) at an inclination of 89 degrees, orbiting Earth once every approximately 90 minutes. Launch coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. PDT (3:30 p.m. EDT) on NASA Television, the agency's website and

Remote Camera Opportunities

Media who have applied for credentialing will receive instructions for remote camera opportunities from SpaceX Media Relations in advance of the launch.

Day-of-Launch Viewing

Media who have applied for credentialing will receive instructions for day-of-launch viewing from SpaceX Media Relations in advance of the launch. For photographers: the launch azimuth after liftoff will be 180.1 degrees.

Weather and visibility conditions permitting, the launch may be visible from the Greater Los Angeles area by looking to the west.

Media Accreditation

The deadline for media who are U.S. citizens to apply for accreditation to cover prelaunch and launch activities for the Iridium-6/GRACE-FO launch is 2 p.m. PDT Sunday, May 13. U.S. media who are interested in covering the launch can apply by emailing . The deadline to apply for accreditation for media who are foreign nationals or green card holders has passed.

Vandenberg security will have final authority to decide which media are credentialed to cover launches, and submitting the request by the deadline does not guarantee approval.

NASA Television Coverage

NASA Television will carry the prelaunch news conference and launch commentary coverage, and stream both events at:

They will also be streamed live and archived at

For information on receiving NASA TV, go to:

Voice Circuit Coverage

Audio only of the news conference and the launch coverage will be carried on the NASA "V" circuits, which may be accessed by dialing 321-867-1220, -1240, -1260 or -7135.

NASA Web Prelaunch and Launch Coverage

For extensive prelaunch, countdown and launch day coverage of the liftoff of Iridium-6/GRACE-FO aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, go to:

Live countdown coverage on NASA's launch blog will begin at launch minus two days. Coverage will feature real-time updates of countdown milestones. To learn more about the GRACE-FO mission, visit:

Additional information about GRACE-FO is available in the launch press kit:

Social Media

Join the conversation online and follow GRACE-FO on Twitter and Facebook:


The GRACE-FO Staff News Center at the NASA Vandenberg Resident Office will open Wednesday, May 16. To speak with a NASA communications specialist, call 805-605-3051 beginning at that time. A recorded launch status report also will be available by dialing 805-734-2693.

To arrange an interview outside of the Vandenberg base, please contact the JPL Media Relations representative in Lompoc at 626-390-8506 or the JPL Media Relations office in Pasadena at 818-354-5011.

JPL manages the GRACE-FO mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, under the direction of the Earth Systematic Missions Program Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft were built by Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, under subcontract to JPL. GFZ contracted GRACE-FO launch services from Iridium, and SpaceX is providing the Falcon 9 launch service. GFZ has subcontracted mission operations to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which operates the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

News Media Contact

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474 / 818-653-8339

Steve Cole
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918 / 202-657-2194

Robin Ghormley
30th Space Wing, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Eva Behrend
SpaceX, Hawthorne, Calif.