Satellite missions and instruments

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of satellite missions and their instruments that are of interest for observing the atmosphere composition and for my scientific activities. For some of them, more details are obtained by clicking on the links:


Aqua (2002-now): NASA, Sun-synchronous, near polar orbit, afternoon (1:30 pm) ascending node, altitude 705 km

The NASA EOS-Aqua platform (Source:

The NASA EOS-Aqua (“water” in Latin) is a science satellite mission collecting information about the Earth’s water cycle, including evaporation from the oceans, water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds, precipitation, soil moisture, sea ice, land ice, and snow cover on the land and ice. Additional variables also being measured by Aqua include radiative energy fluxes, aerosols, vegetation cover on the land, phytoplankton and dissolved organic matter in the oceans, and air, land, and water temperatures. Aqua was originally developed for a six-year design life but has now far exceeded that original goal. It continues transmitting high-quality data from four of its six instruments:

  • Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS)
  • Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-A)
  • Humidity Sounder for Brazil (HSB)
  • Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E)
  • Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS): passive sensor, atmosphere (aerosols, clouds, CO – Carbon monoxide), surface, fire
  • Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES)

Aura, NASA (2004-now): NASA

The NASA EOS-Aura (“breeze” in Latin) satellite is focussed on observing atmospheric chemistry, in order to contribute to address major environmental questions related to the O3 – Ozone layer, the sources – chemical transformation and transport of tropospheric pollutants and the Earth’s climate. It consist of 4 instruments:

  • High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS)
  • Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS)
  • Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES)
  • Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI): Dutch-Finnish passive sensor, air quality purpose, designed for trace gas pollutants and aerosols

CALIPSO (2006-now): joint NASA and CNES

The Delta II rocket with CALIPSO and CloudSat (Source:
  • Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP): active sensor (lidar), high-resolution vertical profiles of aerosols and clouds.
  • Imaging Infrared Radiometer (IIR): cirrus cloud emissivity and particle size.
  • Wide Field Camera (WFC): a modified version of the commercial off-the-shelf Ball Aerospace CT-633 star tracker camera.

GOSAT (2009-): JAXA

MetOp A (2006-now), B (2012-now) & C (expected 2018): EUMETSAT, low Earth Sun-Synchronous orbit

  • GOME2: passive sensor, air quality purpose, trace gases (pollutants)
  • IASI: passive sensor, meteorology purpose, chemistry interest (trace gases)

Terra (1999-now): NASA

Sentinel-5 Precursor (2017-now):

Supported by ESA and issued from initiatives by the Netherlands, Sentinel-5 Precursor is part of the COPERNICUS programme and the first of the atmospheric composition Sentinels, launched in 2017 for an expected lifetime of seven years.. Low Earth Sun-Synchronous orbit, altitude 824 km, local observation time 1:30 pm, it includes only 1 instrument:


FTS-2 – GOSAT-2 (2017): JAXA passive sensor, follow-up of GOSAT

Sentinel-4-UVN (launch expected in XX): ESA passive sensor, geostationary orbit, air quality purpose, trace gases (pollutants) and aerosols

Sentinel-5-UVNS (launch expected in XX): ESA passive sensor, low Earth Sun-Synchronous orbit, air quality & climate purposes, trace gases (pollutants + green-house gas – not CO2) and aerosols

Microcarb (launch expected in 2020): French CNES passive sensor, low Earth Sun-Synchronous orbit, climate purpose, trace gas (CO2) and aerosols

MERLIN: German DLR active sensor (LIDAR), climate purpose, trace gas (CH4)



ENVISAT (2002-2012): ESA, low Earth Sun-Synchronous orbit

ERS-2 (1995-2010): ESA, low Earth Sun-Synchronous orbit

  • GOME: passive sensor, air quality purpose, trace gases (pollutants)