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Aqua (EOS PM-1) is a multi-national NASA scientific research satellite in orbit around the Earth, studying the precipitation, evaporation, and cycling of water. It is the second major component of the Earth Observing System (EOS) preceded by Terra (launched 1999) and followed by Aura (launched 2004).

The name "Aqua" comes from the Latin word for water. The satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 4, 2002, aboard a Delta II rocket. Aqua is on a Sun-synchronous orbit. It flies leading the satellite formation called the "A Train" with several other satellites (Aura, CALIPSO, CloudSat and the French PARASOL).

Aqua carries six state-of-the-art instruments in a near-polar low-Earth orbit. The six instruments are the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-A), the Humidity Sounder for Brazil (HSB), the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E), the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES). Each has unique characteristics and capabilities, and all six serve together to form a powerful package for Earth observations.

  • AMSR-E

The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) is a twelve-channel, six-frequency, total power passive-microwave radiometer system. It measures brightness temperatures at 6.925, 10.65, 18.7, 23.8, 36.5, and 89.0 GHz. Vertically and horizontally polarized measurements are taken at all channels. The Earth-emitted microwave radiation is collected by an offset parabolic reflector 1.6 meters in diameter that scans across the Earth along an imaginary conical surface, maintaining a constant Earth incidence angle of 55° and providing a swath width array of six feedhorns which then carry the radiation to radiometers for measurement. Calibration is accomplished with observations of cosmic background radiation and an on-board warm target. Spatial resolution of the individual measurements varies from 5.4 km at 89.0 GHz to 56 km at 6.9 GHz.


The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), is a 36-band spectroradiometer measuring visible and infrared radiation and obtaining data that are being used to derive products ranging from vegetation, land surface cover, and ocean chlorophyll fluorescence to cloud and aerosol properties, fire occurrence, snow cover on the land, and sea ice cover on the oceans. The first MODIS instrument was launched on board the Terra satellite in December 1999, and the second was launched on Aqua in May 2002.

  • AMSU-A

The Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU-A), a 15-channel microwave sounder designed primarily to obtain temperature profiles in the upper atmosphere (especially the stratosphere) and to provide a cloud-filtering capability for tropospheric temperature observations. The first AMSU was launched in May 1998 on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) NOAA 15 satellite. The EOS AMSU-A is part of a closely coupled triplet of instruments that include the AIRS and HSB.

  • AIRS

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), an advanced sounder containing 2378 infrared channels and four visible/near-infrared channels, aimed at obtaining highly accurate temperature profiles within the atmosphere plus a variety of additional Earth/atmosphere products. AIRS will be the highlighted instrument in the AIRS/AMSU-A/HSB triplet centered on measuring accurate temperature and humidity profiles throughout the atmosphere.

  • HSB

The Humidity Sounder for Brazil (HSB), a 4-channel microwave sounder provided by Brazil aimed at obtaining humidity profiles throughout the atmosphere. The HSB is the instrument in the AIRS/AMSU-A/HSB triplet that allows humidity measurements even under conditions of heavy cloudiness and haze. The HSB provided high quality data until February 2003.


The Cloud's and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) is a 3-channel radiometer measuring reflected solar radiation in the 0.3-5 µm wavelength band, emitted terrestrial radiation in the 8-12 µm band, and total radiation from 0.3 µm to beyond 100 µm. These data are being used to measure the Earth's total thermal radiation budget, and, in combination with MODIS data, detailed information about clouds. The first CERES instrument was launched on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite in November 1997; the second and third CERES instuments were launched on the Terra satellite in December 1999; and the fourth and fifth CERES instruments are on board the Aqua satellite.

Referred by NASA(http://aqua.nasa.gov) website


Terra collects data about the Earth’s bio-geochemical and energy systems using five sensors that observe the atmosphere, land surface, oceans, snow and ice, and energy budget. Each sensor has unique features that enable scientists to meet a wide range of science objectives. The five Terra onboard sensors are:
  • Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER)
  • Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES)
  • Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT)
  • Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
  • Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR)


The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer obtains high-resolution (15 to 90 square meters per pixel) images of the Earth in 14 different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from visible to thermal infrared light. Scientists use ASTER data to create detailed maps of land surface temperature, emissivity, reflectance, and elevation.

ASTER is the only high spatial resolution instrument on the Terra platform. ASTER's ability to serve as a 'zoom' lens for the other Terra instruments is particularly important for change detection, calibration/validation and land surface studies. Unlike the other instruments aboard Terra, ASTER will not collect data continuously; rather, it collects an average of 8 minutes of data per orbit. All three ASTER telescopes (VNIR, SWIR, and TIR) are pointable in the crosstrack direction. Given its high resolution and its ability to change viewing angles, ASTER produces stereoscopic images and detailed terrain height models


There are two identical CERES instruments aboard Terra that measure the Earth's total radiation budget and provide cloud property estimates that enable scientists to assess clouds' roles in radiative fluxes from the surface to the top of the atmosphere. One CERES instrument operates in a cross-track scan mode and the other in a biaxial scan mode. The cross-track mode essentially continues the measurements of the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), while the biaxial scan mode provides new angular flux information that has improved the accuracy of angular models used to derive the Earth's radiation balance.


Measurement of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) is an instrument designed to enhance our knowledge of the lower atmosphere and to observe how it interacts with the land and ocean biospheres. MOPITT’s specific focus is on the distribution, transport, sources, and sinks of carbon monoxide in the troposphere. Carbon monoxide, which is expelled from factories, cars, and forest fires, hinders the atmosphere's natural ability to rid itself of harmful pollutants.

MOPITT is the first satellite sensor to use gas correlation spectroscopy. The sensor measures emitted and reflected radiance from the Earth in three spectral bands. As this light enters the sensor, it passes along two different paths through onboard containers of carbon monoxide. The different paths absorb different amounts of energy, leading to small differences in the resulting signals that correlate with the presence of these gases in the atmosphere.

MOPITT's spatial resolution is 22 km at nadir and it 'sees' the Earth in swaths that are 640 km wide. Moreover, it can measure the concentrations of carbon monoxide in 5-km layers down a vertical column of atmosphere, to help scientists track the gas back to its sources.


MODIS measures the properties of clouds such as the distribution and size of cloud droplets in both liquid water and ice clouds. MODIS also measures the properties of aerosols—tiny liquid or solid particles in the atmosphere. Aerosols enter the atmosphere from manmade sources like pollution and biomass burning and natural sources like dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and forest fires. MODIS helps scientists determine the amount of water vapor in a column of the atmosphere and the vertical distribution of temperature and water vapor—measurements crucial to understanding Earth’s climate system.

MODIS is ideal for monitoring large-scale changes in the biosphere that are yielding new insights into the workings of the global carbon cycle. MODIS measures the photosynthetic activity of land and marine plants (phytoplankton) to yield better estimates of how much of the greenhouse gas is being absorbed and used in plant productivity. Coupled with the sensor's surface temperature measurements, MODIS' measurements of the biosphere are helping scientists track the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide in response to climate changes.

  • MISR

Most satellite instruments look only straight down, or toward the edge of the planet. To fully understand Earth's climate, and to determine how it may be changing, we need to know the amount of sunlight that is scattered in different directions under natural conditions. MISR is a new type of instrument designed to address this need — it views the Earth with cameras pointed at nine different angles. One camera points toward nadir, and the others provide forward and aftward view angles, at the Earth's surface, of 26.1°, 45.6°, 60.0°, and 70.5°. As the instrument flies overhead, each region of the Earth's surface is successively imaged by all nine cameras in each of four wavelengths (blue, green, red, and near-infrared).

Referred by NASA(http://aqua.nasa.gov) website