Vandenberg AFB, USA, 28 April 2006: After a week of postponements, NASA launched its CloudSat and CALIPSO missions on 28 April. Originally scheduled for liftoff April 21, the twin satellite mission had experienced inclement weather, unavailability of refueling aircraft and a faulty temperature sensor. This time, however, the Delta II rocket carrying the two satellites lifted off at 3:02 a.m. Pacific Time without a hitch.
CALIPSO and CloudSat are designed to provide a three-dimensional perspective on Earth’s clouds and aerosols, and to study how clouds and the airborne particles form, evolve and affect water supply, climate, weather and air quality. CloudSat’s cloud-profiling radar is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than typical weather radar. It can detect clouds and distinguish between cloud particles and precipitation.
CALIPSO – which stands for Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation – carries an instrument that can detect aerosol particles and can distinguish between aerosol and cloud particles. “With the high resolution observation that CALIPSO will provide, we will get a better understanding of aerosol transport and how our climate system works,” said David Winker, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Vandenberg.