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Scientists around the world can now glimpse inside Earth’s storms with the instruments aboard two Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. (Boulder, Colo.) Earth-observation missions launched earlier this year.
The CloudSat and CALIPSO satellites launched on April 28 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California have now completed commissioning activities.
Ball Aerospace built the spacecraft bus for CloudSat, and the payload of scientific instruments that includes the CALIOP LIDAR and wide-field camera for CALIPSO. Both missions are designed to improve our understanding of Earth’s weather, climate, and air quality by revealing 3D details of clouds and the characteristics of aerosols.
CloudSat transitioned to its operational mode on June 2, when the cloud profiling radar was activated. On June 6, NASA released the first pictures returned from CloudSat, showing a storm over the North Sea in the North Atlantic approaching Greenland. Since then, the satellite’s scanning radar system has continued performing flawlessly. CloudSat carries a millimeter wavelength cloud-profiling radar which is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than typical weather radar.
CALIPSO’s instruments were turned on sequentially with the first infrared images from its infrared imaging radiometer arriving on May 11, followed by visible images from the WFC on May 18. The LIDAR, made up of a laser transmitter and a three-channel receiver, were aligned on June 7. Following the payload’s downlink and delivery of that data, NASA’s Langley Research Center released the first LIDAR science images, which illustrate the layering of the atmosphere. Highlights of the image include a volcanic plume over the equator near the Philippines and a large polar stratospheric cloud above Antarctica.