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Space Missions

Climate and Radiation Laboratory personnel plays an important role in conceiving, leading, and supporting the scientific investigations of various NASA instruments and satellite missions by serving as principal investigators, project scientists, algorithm developers, and science team members.


The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission is the second generation laser altimeter designed for cryospheric science measurements. Unlike its single-beam predecessor, ICESat-2 will split a single laser beam into six beams to enable measurement of elevation as well as surface slope, and uses a high-repetition rate laser to collect data every 70cm along the flight path.


The Sun is the predominant source of energy input to Earth. Solar radiation ensures the maintenance of the appropriate range of temperatures for the sustenance of life on Earth, by driving land surface heating, plant productivity, and oceanic and atmospheric circulations. Because of the Sun’s dominant influence on Earth’s function, it is important to accurately measure the solar input to Earth or solar irradiance. Measurement of the total solar irradiance (TSI) is essential for quantifying Earth’s energy budget.


DSCOVR, formerly called Triana, is the first Earth-observing satellite in an Lagrange-1 or L1 orbit.  It supports a number of scientific instruments, including EPIC and NISTAR.  EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera) is a 10-channel sepctroradiometer that provides daily 13 (in winter) or 22 (in summer) 10 narrow band spectral images of the entire sunlit face of Earth.


Launched on February 11, 2013, Landsat 8 (formerly the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, LDCM) is the most recently launched Landsat satellite. It is collecting valuable data and imagery used in agriculture, education, business, science, and government.

Interactions between aerosols, cloud particles, precipitation, and radiation are central to understanding and predicting weather and severe storm development, air quality, and climate change. Key to ACCP science is that virtually every cloud particle, raindrop and snowflake is born from an aerosol particle, which intimately links aerosol and cloud/precipitation processes.

The Atmosphere Observing System (AOS) mission goal is to optimize how we examine links among tiny particles known as "aerosols," clouds, atmospheric convection, and precipitation. AOS will deliver key data for improved forecasts of weather, air quality and climate. How? By providing unmatched insight into the vertical structure of our atmosphere with observations from space, our skies, and on the ground.


Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation studies the role that clouds and aerosols play in regulating Earth's weather, climate and air quality.


Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) is a 94-GHz nadir-looking radar which measures the power backscattered by clouds as a function of distance from the radar.


NOAA’s latest generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), known as the GOES-R Series, is the nation’s most advanced fleet of geostationary weather satellites. Geostationary satellites circle the Earth in geosynchronous orbit, which means they orbit the Earth’s equatorial plane at a speed matching the Earth’s rotation.


Clouds play an important role in Earth’s climate system through interactions with atmospheric radiation, dynamics, and precipitation processes. Global cloud ice and properties are critical for quantifying cloud’s roles, but it is challenging to measure these variables accurately.


The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission is a recent addition to the NASA flight program manifest as recommended in the report, “Responding to the Challenge of Climate and Environmental Change:  NASA’s plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space”, published in June 2010.   As described in the report, the primary objective is to “make essential global ocean color measurements, essential for understanding the carbon cycle and how it both affects and is affected by climate change…”. 


The PolSIR instrument – short for Polarized Submillimeter Ice-cloud Radiometer – will help humanity better understand Earth’s dynamic atmosphere and its impact on climate by studying ice clouds that form at high altitudes throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions. Specifically, identical pairs of the radiometers (325 and 680 GHz) will fly aboard two CubeSats (small satellites like a portable electric oven) to provide crucial information about how ice clouds act in Earth climate system. 


The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment mission is providing state-of-the-art measurements of incoming x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and total solar radiation.


The National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) is a joint mission to extend key measurements in support of long-term monitoring of climate trends and of global biological productivity.

The instruments aboard NOAA’s Suomi NPP bridge some of the observational capabilities from NASA Aura, launched in 2004, to the other satellite instruments in NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which includes two satellites yet to be launched.


Terra is a multi-national, multi-disciplinary mission involving partnerships with the aerospace agencies of Canada and Japan.