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Missions & Sensors

  This section of the WDC-RSAT website covers the sources (sensors and missions) of satellite data used for remote sensing of the atmosphere and which form the basis of many of the available products and services.
AATSR Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer This sensor is one of the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) instruments on board the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite ENVISAT. It is the most recent in a series of instruments designed primarily to measure Sea Surface Temperature (SST), following on from ATSR-1 and ATSR-2 on board ERS-1 and ERS-2.
ACE Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment is a Canadian satellite mission on board the Canadian satellite SCISAT-1 for remote sensing of the Earth's atmosphere. ACE was launched on August 13, 2003. The measurements consist of spectra and images that are used to investigate chemical and dynamical processes in our atmosphere, with a particular emphasis on ozone depletion in the Arctic stratosphere.
AIRS Atmospheric Infrared Sounder This atmospheric sensor is one of six instruments on board the Aqua satellite, part of NASA's Earth Observing System. Together these instruments observe the global water and energy cycles, climate variation and trends, and the response of the climate system to increased greenhouse gases. AIRS measures the atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles.
AMSR Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer AMSR was launched on board the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite-II (ADEOS-II) in June, 2002. AMSR measures geophysical variables related to the earth's water cycle, including: precipitation rate, cloud water, water vapor, sea surface winds, sea surface temperature, sea ice concentration, snow water equivalent, and soil moisture.
AMSU Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit A / B The first AMSU was launched in May 1998 on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's NOAA 15 satellite. This sensor primarily obtains temperature profiles in the upper atmosphere (especially the stratosphere) and provides a cloud-filtering capability for tropospheric temperature observations.
ATMOS Atmospheric Trace Molecules Observed by Spectroscopy This instrument was flown four times on the space shuttle: on Spacelab-3 in April 1995, and three times on ATLAS (March 1992, April 1993 and November 1994). It is an infrared spectrometer designed to provide information on the chemical composition of the atmosphere.
ATOVS Advanced TIROS Operational Vertical Sounder The Advanced TOVS (ATOVS) has been flown on the NOAA satellites beginning with NOAA15 and is composed of three instrumentsl: The next generation of HIRS HIRS/3), the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit AMSU-A (based on former MSU), and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit AMSU-B. Detailed ATOVS instrument information can be found in the NOAA KLM Polar Orbiter Users Guide
AVHRR Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer AVHRR is a broad-band, four-to-five channel (depending on the model) scanner, sensing in the visible, near-infrared, and thermal infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This sensor is carried on NOAA's Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES), beginning with TIROS-N in 1978.
AVHRR3 Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer This sensor is a multi-spectral imaging instrument to support many different applications. AVHRR/3 is the latest version for flight from NOAA-K onwards on the USA satellites (launched in May 1998) and on EUMETSAT's Metop satellite (launched in October 2006). It is the standard instrument for global vegetation mapping at about 1 km resolution, and also monitors sea surface temperatures and ice cover.
CALIPSO Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations was launched on April 28, 2006 to study the impact of clouds and aerosols on the Earth's radiation budget and climate. CALIPSO combines an active lidar instrument (CALIOP) with passive infrared and visible imagers (IIR and WFC) to probe the vertical structure and properties of thin clouds and aerosols over the globe. It flies in formation with five other satellites in the international Afternoon or "A-Train" constellation for coincident Earth observations.
CRISTA Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes for the Atmosphere CRISTA is a limb-scanning satellite experiment, designed and developed by the University of Wuppertal to measure infrared emissions of the earth's atmosphere. The design enables observations of small scale dynamical structures in the 15-150 km altitude region. CRISTA has successfully completed two missions: CRISTA 1 was launched on November 3, 1994 on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Measurements were obtained from November 4-12, 1994. CRISTA 2, launched on August 7, 1997 with STS-85 Discovery, made measurements between August 8-16.
GOME Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment This instrument was launched on April 21, 1995 on board the second European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS-2). It can measure a range of atmospheric trace constituents, with an emphasis on global ozone distribution.
GOME II Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment II This sensor is one of the European instruments carried on MetOp and launched in October 2006. GOME II will continue the long-term monitoring of atmospheric ozone started by GOME on ERS-2 and SCIAMACHY on Envisat. GOME-2 will also measure other trace gases such as NO2 and SO2.
GOMOS Global Ozone Monitoring by Occultation of Stars This sensor is flown on the European environmental satellite ENVISAT since the end of 2001. The main scientific objective is to monitor ozone and ozone trends in the stratosphere and mesosphere.
HALOE Halogen Occultation Experiment This sensor has been flying on UARS (Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite), beginning scientific observations on October 11, 1991. It measures the vertical distribution of hydrofloric and hydrochloric acids, methane, carbon dioxide, ozone, water vapor, and members of the nitrogen family.
HIRDLS High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder This instrument was launched in July 2004 on board EOS-Aura. Its main goal is to observe global distribution of temperature and concentrations of O3, H2O, CH4, N2O, NO2, HNO3, N2O5, CFC11, CFC12, ClONO2, and aerosols in the upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere.

Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer The first flight model of IASI was launched in October 2006 onboard the first European meteorological polar-orbiting satellites, METOP-A. IASI will deliver temperature, moisture and ozone profile information for the upper atmosphere.

MAS Millimeter-wave Atmospheric Sounder This instrument is part of NASA's Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS) Spacelab shuttle mission. MAS flew first in 1992 on the ATLAS-1 mission (March 24 - April 2) and had a second flight on ATLAS-2 in 1993 (April 8 - April 17). During its third flight in 1994 (November 3- November 14) MAS had a failure in its data processing unit after 10 hours of operation.
MERIS Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer This sensor is part of the core instrument payload of ESA's environmental satellite ENVISAT, launched at the end of 2001.
MHS Microwave Humidity Sounder This sensor is one of the European instruments carried on MetOp and launched in October 2006. MHS provides a detailed picture of atmospheric humidity with the different channels relating to different altitudes. 
MIPAS Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding This sensor is flying on the European environmental satellite ENVISAT since the end of 2001. Designed as a high-resolution limb sounder, it provides detailed insights into the chemistry of the atmosphere by observing emission spectra in the near- to mid-infrared.
MISR Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer MISR was launched on December 18 1999, onboard the Terra satellite as part of NASA's EOS (Earth Observing System) program. This instrument provides a unique opportunity for studying the ecology and climate of Earth through the acquisition of global multiangle imagery on the daylit side of Earth.
MLS Microwave Limb Sounder This instrument was launched in July 2004 on board EOS-Aura. MLS will continue the long-term record of atmospheric compositions measurements (vertical profiles of O3,HCl, ClO, HOCl, BrO, OH, H2O, HO2, HNO33 N2O, CO, HCN, volcanic SO2, cloud ice, geopotential height and temperature of the atmosphere) made by the UARS sensors.
MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. MODIS is the key instrument aboard the Terra (EOS AM-1) satellite. Terra MODIS is viewing the entire Earth's surface every 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands. That data will improve our understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on the land, in the oceans, and in the lower atmosphere. MODIS plays a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making decisions. For further information see the MODIS homepage.
MOPITT Measurements of Pollution In The Troposphere MOPITT was launched in December 18 1999, on board the Terra satellite as part of NASA's EOS (Earth Observing System) program. MOPITT provides column densities for CO, CH4 and NO2. The goal of the MOPITT experiment is to enhance our knowledge of the lower atmosphere system and particularly how it interacts with the surface/ocean/biomass systems.
OMI Ozone Monitoring Instrument This instrument was launched in July 2004 on board EOS-Aura. OMI monitors the recovery of the ozone layer in response to the phase out of chemicals, such as CFCs. Together with its companion instruments MLS and HIRDLS it will measure criteria pollutants such as O3, NO2, SO2 and aerosols.
OSIRIS Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imager System. The OSIRIS instrument measures vertical profiles of spectrally dispersed, limb scattered sunlight from the upper troposphere into the lower mesosphere. OSIRIS is one of two instruments on the Odin satellite, launched February, 2001 (the other instrument being a sub-mm radiometer) into a sun-synchronous, 6 pm/6 am local time orbit at 600 km. This restricts OSIRIS sunlit observations to the Northern hemisphere in May, June, July August and the Southern hemisphere in November, December, January and February. Global coverage from 82°S to 82°N occurs on the months adjoining the equinoxes. OSIRIS measurements began November, 2001 and continue to the present.
POAM II III Polar Ozone and Aerosol Measurement The POAM instrument was developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to measure the vertical distribution of atmospheric ozone, water vapor, nitrogen dioxide, aerosol extinction, and temperature. POAM II was launched aboard the French SPOT-3 satellite in September, 1993. The currently operational POAM III was subsequently launched on the SPOT-4 satellite in March, 1998.
SABER SABER (Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry) is one of four instruments on NASA's Timed (Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) mission. SABER enhances knowledge of the radiation budget, it measures the vertical distribution of ozone, water vapor and carbon and provides new information about how temperature, density and pressure change with altitude. During the mission, SABER will produce a global picture of how the MLTI (Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere / Ionosphere) region changes over time.
SAGE Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment I, II and III The first instrument was launched in February, 1979 aboard the Applications Explorer Mission-B (AEM-B) satellite. The SAGE II sensor was launched in October 5, 1984. The last version was launched on December 10, 2001. The primary scientific objective of all three SAGE missions was to obtain high quality, upper tropospheric/stratospheric profile measurements of key components, such as ozone, NO2, NO3, OClO, H2O and aerosol extinction, and to monitor long-term trends.
SBUV Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet SBUV was on board the NIMBUS-7 spacecraft launched in October 1978. Slight modifications were made to this instrument (deemed SBUV/2) and NOAA has been using it as their ozone column monitoring instrument since the launch of NOAA-9 in December 1984. The SBUV instrument measures the Solar irradiance and Earth radiance in the near ultraviolet spectrum. 
SCIAMACHY Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography This atmospheric sensor is flown on the European environmental satellite ENVISAT since the end of 2001. It measures atmospheric absorption in spectral bands from the ultraviolet to the near infrared, providing knowledge about the composition, dynamics and radiation balance of the atmosphere.
SEVIRI Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager This Instrument observes aboard Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) from a geostationary orbit with improved performance compared to its Meteosat predecessors. Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) is a cooperative programme between EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and ESA (European Space Agency).
TES Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer This instrument was launched in July 2004 on board EOS-Aura. The primary objective of TES is to make global, three-dimensional measurements of ozone and other chemical species (CO, H2O, CH4, HNO3, NO2) and surface temperature.
TMI Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager TRMM (launched in November, 1997) is a joint project between Japan and the United States in 1986. TMI is able to quantify the water vapor, cloud water, and rainfall intensity in the atmosphere. 
TOMS Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer This atmospheric sensor has been flying on different missions within NASA's Earth Probes Program. The objective is to extend the global ozone data set that began in 1978 with the flight of TOMS on NIMBUS-7.
VIRS Visible and Infrared Scanner This scanner is one of the primary instruments flown aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) observatory. It was launched in November 1997. VIRS is one of the three instruments in the rain-measuring package and will serve as a very indirect indicator of rainfall and even more importantly serve as a transfer standard to other measurements that are made routinely using POES and GOES satellites.
WINDII WINDII (Wind Imaging Interferometer) measures wind, temperature, and emission rate in the upper mesosphere and lower thermosphere (80 to 300 km) from observations of the Earth's airglow. Measurements are made both day and night providing global coverage of this region of the atmosphere. WINDII was launched on the NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite on 12 September 1991 and operated until June 2004.