MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Hardin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 22, 1998
FUTURE MISSIONS TO STUDY CLOUDS, AEROSOLS, VOLCANIC PLUMES
NASA has chosen to develop three small satellite missions
designed to explore the Earth's dynamic systems under its Earth
System Science Pathfinders (ESSP) program, one of which will be
managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
JPL will provide mission management and payload development
for CloudSat, an Earth-orbiting radar that was chosen as one of
two alternative missions. The principal investigator for CloudSat
is Dr. Graeme Stephens at Colorado State University.
CloudSat is a mission focused on understanding the role that
thick clouds play in the Earth's radiation budget -- a balance of
solar energy reaching the Earth and lost to space that ultimately
controls the temperature of the Earth. CloudSat would use an
advanced cloud-profiling radar to provide information on the
vertical structure of highly dynamic tropical cloud systems.
This new radar would enable measurements of cloud properties for
the first time on a global basis, revolutionizing our
understanding of cloud-related issues. CloudSat would launch in
CloudSat will fill a significant gap in the existing and
planned Earth observation missions by measuring the vertical
profile of clouds using active remote sensing (94-GHz radar) and
a profiling oxygen A-band spectrometer/imager. CloudSat
information will be enhanced by formation flying with the IceSat
lidar, a NASA ice and cloud mission set to launch in 2001.
The estimated mission cost of CloudSat would be $144.6
million, with NASA contributing $119.6 million. Collaboration
with Canada is being explored for the provision of critical
components for CloudSat's cloud-profiling radar.
In addition to CloudSat, NASA has chosen one additional
concept, the Volcanic Ash Mission (Volcam), as an alternate
mission. Volcam would monitor volcanic clouds and aerosols from a
geostationary orbit. CloudSat and Volcam will go through an
extended development and technology assessment before NASA
selects one as a primary mission and one as an alternate.
At the same time, NASA selected the Pathfinder Instruments
for Cloud and Aerosol Spaceborne Observations - Climatologie
Etendue des Nuages et des Aerosols, or Picasso-Cena mission, for
development as a primary mission. Picasso-Cena, led by NASA's
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, will fly instruments
designed to address the role of clouds and small atmospheric
particles known as aerosols and their impact on Earth's radiation
These missions join NASA's two current ESSP missions, the
Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL), which will launch in 2000, and the
JPL-managed Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which
will launch in 2001. The VCL mission will provide the first global
inventory of the vertical structure of forests across Earth using
a multi-beam laser-device. GRACE employs a satellite-to-satellite
microwave tracking system between the two satellites to measure
the Earth's gravity field and its time variability over five
The philosophy of the ESSP program is to achieve maximum
science value while complementing existing or planned flight
missions. The principal investigator is responsible for
developing the flight mission hardware from selection to a
launch-ready condition within 36 months, with minimal direct NASA
oversight. The principal investigator and mission team are
responsible for accomplishing the stated scientific objectives
and delivering resulting data to the broader Earth science
community and general public as expediently as possible.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.