Mission Summary

Part of NASA's fleet of weather- and climate-tracking satellites, CloudSat uses advanced radar to examine the inner structure of clouds, helping researchers better understand how severe tropical cyclones as well as climate changes related to clouds occur.

In August 2010, CloudSat embarked on a new mission phase to study the genesis and patterns of tropical cyclones. Since its launch in 2006, CloudSat has played an instrumental role in new techniques for estimating the intensity of hurricanes from space, in addition to producing data about links between pollution and rainfall.

Mission Events

June 2006: In a series of maneuvers, CloudSat and CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations) join three satellites already in orbit (Aqua, PARASOL, and Aura) to form a constellation of weather- and climate-tracking satellites known as the A-Train.

August 2010: CloudSat, along with NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Aqua satellite, begins flights to study tropical cyclones in an effort to better predict when and how hurricanes form. The new mission, called the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes mission, or GRIP, conducts field studies for 6 weeks starting on August 15, 2010.

Key Discoveries

November 2007: Using NASA's CloudSat and Aqua satellites, the agency and university scientists develop a promising new technique for estimating the intensity of tropical cyclones from space.

December 2007: CloudSat provides some of the first, most direct observations of where rainfall occurs on a near-global basis, allowing scientists to see, for the first time, what fraction of Earth's clouds precipitate.

May 2008: CloudSat data contributes to findings that clouds infused with airborne pollution tend to produce less rain.

Scientific Instrument(s)

- Cloud-profiling radar

Type: Orbiter
Status: Current
Launch Date: April 28, 2006
3:02 a.m. (10:02 UTC)
Launch Location: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Target: Earth
Current Location: Orbit:
Type: Sun-synchronous

Altitude: 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth's surface
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