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Earth Missions

Current Missions
* Current missions are listed from earliest launch to most recent.

Topex/Poseidon Topex/Poseidon
Launch Date: August 10, 1992
   Under a joint plan between NASA and France's National Center for Space Studies, this satellite mission measures sea level every 10 days. This mission allows scientists to chart the height of the seas across ocean basins with an accuracy of less than 10 centimeters (4 inches). This data provided a unique view of El Niño and La Niña.
Quick Scatterometer Quick Scatterometer
Launch Date: June 19, 1999
   The SeaWinds instrument aboard the QuikScat satellite enables researchers to look through cloud cover and measure winds at the ocean's surface. SeaWinds can spot tropical depressions that can lead to hurricanes before they are visible in conventional satellite imagery.
Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
Launch Date: December 18, 1999
   This is an imaging instrument flying on NASA's Terra satellite. It is designed to obtain high-resolution global, regional and local images of Earth in 14 color bands.
Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer
Launch Date: December 18, 1999
   Launched aboard NASA's Terra satellite, this instrument is a sophisticated imaging system that collects images from nine widely spaced angles as its satellite glides above Earth.
Active Cavity Irradiance Monitor Satellite Active Cavity Irradiance Monitor Satellite
Launch Date: December 20, 1999
   This satellite is designed to monitor the total amount of the Sun's energy reaching Earth. This data will help climatologists improve their predictions of climate change and global warming over the next century.
JASON-1 Jason-1
Launch: December 7, 2001
   Like its predecessor, Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1 is a joint U.S./French oceanography mission. The Jason-1 satellite, due to launch in 2001, will be used to monitor global ocean circulation, study ties between the oceans and atmosphere, improve global climate predictions and monitor events like El Niño.
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment
Launch: March 17, 2002
   This joint U.S.-German mission consists of two spacecraft flying in tandem to measure Earth's gravitational field very precisely. This will enable a better understanding of ocean surface currents and ocean heat transport.
Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Atmospheric Infrared Sounder
Launch: May 4, 2002
   This instrument is to be flown aboard NASA's Aqua satellite to make highly accurate measurements of air temperature, humidity, clouds and surface temperatures.
Instrument home page
Mission description
SeaWinds on ADEOS 2 SeaWinds on Adeos 2
Launch: December 13, 2002
   This scatterometer instrument, called SeaWinds, flies on Japan's Advanced Earth Observation Satellite 2. Scatterometers sense ripples caused by winds near the ocean's surface, from which scientists compute wind speed and direction.
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Future Missions
* Mission list begins with the earliest future launch.

Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer
Planned Launch: 2004
   This instrument, which will fly aboard NASA's Aura spacecraft, is an infrared sensor designed to measure the state of Earth's troposphere and look at ozone.
Microwave Limb Sounder Microwave Limb Sounder
Planned Launch: 2004
   This instrument, which will fly aboard NASA's Aura spacecraft, is designed to improve our understanding of ozone, especially how it is depleted by processes of chlorine chemistry.
CloudSat CloudSat
Planned Launch: 2004
   Cloudsat's trio of three satellites will be the first spacecraft to study clouds on a global basis. This data will contribute to better predictions of clouds and thus to their poorly understood role in climate change and the cloud-climate feedback.
Ocean Surface Topography
Proposed Launch: 2005
   This mission will be a follow-on to the Jason-1 mission.
Proposed Launch: 2006 - 2007
   This mission will provide the first-ever global maps of salt concentration in the ocean surface needed to understand heat transport and storage in the ocean.
Orbiting Carbon Observatory
Proposed Launch: 2006 - 2007
   This mission will make the first space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide with the accuracy and resolution needed to characterize its sources and sinks. This information will improve forecasts of future concentrations of this important greenhouse gas and its impact on climate.
Mission home page
Ocean Vector Winds Mission
Proposed Launch: 2008
   This mission will be a follow-on to the Sea Winds on Adeos II mission.
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Proposed Missions
* Mission list begins with the earliest proposed launch.

Proposed Launch: 2006 - 2007
   This mission, if selected, will provide the first global measurements of soil moisture and surface freeze/thaw information which is crucial in understanding the land/air exchanges of water, energy and carbon.
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Past Missions
* Mission list begins with the earliest launch.

Seasat Seasat
Launch Date: June 26, 1978
   This experimental satellite flight-tested four instruments that used radar to study Earth and its seas. Many later Earth-orbiting instruments developed at JPL owe their legacy to this mission.
Solar Mesosphere Explorer Solar Mesosphere Explorer
Launch Date: October 6, 1981
   This satellite mission investigated the processes that create and destroy ozone in Earth's upper atmosphere.
Shuttle Imaging Radar Shuttle Imaging Radar
First Launch Date: November 12, 1981
   A series of imaging radar missions were flown on NASA's Space Shuttle for 20 years. Imaging radar has various advantages over images that use visible light; it can "see" through desert sands, for example. The instruments' antennae were the largest space structures ever built at JPL.
Shuttle Payloads Shuttle Payloads
Various launch dates
   In addition to the Shuttle Imaging Radar series, a number of JPL payloads have flown over the years in the cargo bay of NASA space shuttles.
NASA Scatterometer NASA Scatterometer
Launch Date: August 17, 1996
   The scatterometer, which measures near-surface ocean winds, was flown aboard Japan's Midori satellite. It yielded 268,000 measurements before losing power. NASA then approved a rapid replacement mission, the Quick Scatterometer, to take its place.
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
Launch: February 2000
   On a 11-day flight aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in February 2000, SRTM acquired enough data to obtain the most complete near-global mapping of our planet's topography to date.The mission is still processing data and images.
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