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Earth Science Missions

The following is an alphabetical list of NASA Earth science satellites and instruments.


  • ACRIMSAT

    Launched in 1999, AcrimSat studies the sun's energy output with uniform sensitivity from the far-ultraviolet to the far-infrared wavelength range. Its data are used to improve knowledge of the sun's role in global change.

    › Mission page

  • AIRBORNE SCIENCE PROGRAM

    The Airborne Science Program within the Earth Science Division is responsible for providing aircraft systems that further science and advance the use of satellite data. These sub-orbital missions are flown all over the world in partnership with industry, universities or other government agencies and include many climate and Earth science observation projects.

    › Mission page

  • AQUA

    Aqua carries six state-of-the-art instruments to observe the Earth's oceans, atmosphere, land, ice and snow covers, and vegetation, providing high measurement accuracy, spatial detail, and temporal frequency. This comprehensive approach to data collection enables scientists to study the interactions among the four spheres of the Earth system -- the oceans, land, atmosphere, and biosphere.
    Instruments: AIRS * AMSU-A * AMSR-E * CERES * HSB * MODIS

    › Mission page

  • AQUARIUS

    Launched in 2011, the Aquarius instrument is providing the first-ever global maps of salt concentration in the ocean surface. These maps will help us understand how heat is carried and stored in the ocean, and will give us insights into how climate change is affecting the planet's water cycle. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina.

    › Mission page

  • AURA

    The Aura mission studies the Earth's ozone, air quality, and climate. It is designed exclusively to conduct research on the composition, chemistry, and dynamics of the Earth's atmosphere.
    Instruments: HIRDLS * MLS * OMI * TES

    › Mission page

  • CALIPSO

    This cloud-watching spacecraft probes the thickness of clouds and aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere. This information, which the spacecraft has been collecting since its launch in April 2006, is important to the understanding of how the climate works, how much air pollution is present, and what’s changing in the atmosphere.

    › Mission page

  • CLOUDSAT

    Launched in April 2006, CloudSat monitors the state of the Earth’s atmosphere and weather with a sophisticated radar system. The instrument, jointly developed with the Canadian Space Agency, can predict which clouds produce rain, observe snowfall, and monitor the moisture content of clouds.

    › Mission page

  • EARTH OBSERVING-1 (NMP)

    Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) is an advanced land-imaging mission that will demonstrate new instruments and spacecraft systems. EO-1 will validate technologies contributing to the significant reduction in cost of follow-on Landsat missions.

    › Mission page

  • GLOBAL PRECIPITATION MEASUREMENT

    Launched in 2014, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is an international network of satellites that provide the next generation of worldwide observations of rain and snow. By improving measurements of precipitation globally, the GPM mission will help to advance our understanding of Earth's water and energy cycles and improve forecasting of extreme events and natural disasters.

    › Mission page

  • GRACE

    The twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft observe and measure the gravitational field of the Earth. The findings from this mission shed light on the shape and composition of the planet and the distributions of water and ice. The mission was launched in March 2002.

    › Mission page

  • LAGEOS 1&2

    LAGEOS, or Laser Geodynamics Satellites, are a series of satellites designed to provide an orbiting benchmark for geodynamical studies of the Earth.

    › Mission page

  • LANDSAT-7

    Landsat 7 systematically provides well-calibrated, multispectral, moderate resolution, substantially cloud-free, Sun-lit digital images of the Earth's continental and coastal areas with global coverage on a seasonal basis. It covers the United States every 16 days.

    › Mission page

  • ORBITING CARBON OBSERVATORY-2

    Launched in July 2014, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission tracks the ebb and flow of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is linked to global warming and one of the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The mission is designed to pinpoint where the carbon dioxide comes from and where it is going on a global scale, providing us with clues about climate change now and in the future.

    › Mission page

  • OSTM (JASON-2)

    Put into orbit in 2008, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM) is a follow-on to the Jason-1 mission. It will monitor the height of the water of the Earth’s oceans to help scientists understand weather patterns like El Niño, predict the formation of hurricanes, and observe the mean height of the oceans as they rise due to climate change.

    › Mission page

  • QUIKSCAT

    QuikSCAT is primarily known as a powerful weather-monitoring tool that bounces bursts of microwaves off of the Earth’s surface to measure wind speeds. This information is important to scientists who study the impact climate change has on weather patterns and severity. QuikSCAT was launched in June 1997.

    › Mission page

  • SORCE

    The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, launched in January 2003, is designed to monitor the total output of energy from the sun, giving scientists context that helps them understand the Earth’s absorption and radiation of energy.

    › Mission page

  • TERRA

    Terra (formerly EOS AM-1) is the flagship satellite of NASA's Earth observing systems. Terra is the first EOS (Earth Observing System) platform and provides global data on the state of the atmosphere, land, and oceans, as well as their interactions with solar radiation and with one another.
    Instruments: ASTER * CERES * MISR * MODIS * MOPITT

    › Mission page

  • TRMM

    The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, launched in November 1997, uses radar and sensors of visible and infrared light to closely monitor precipitation and weather in the tropical region of the globe. This information provides important indicators of new trends in weather and global climate.
    Instruments: PR * TMI * VIRS * CERES * LIS

    › Mission page