CloudSat and CALIPSO Tandem Set to Launch
April 19, 2006
Two Earth-observation missions, for which Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. contributed both a spacecraft bus and a LIDAR instrument, are scheduled to launch on Friday, April 21, 2006. CloudSat and CALIPSO will launch aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket at 3:02 a.m. PDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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CloudSat and CALIPSO are designed to improve our understanding of Earth's weather, climate, and air quality by disclosing still-hidden characteristics of clouds and aerosols.
"This launch is really a double header for us," said David L. Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Ball Aerospace. "It's designed to revolutionize what we know about clouds, and our two-part role may contribute substantially in answering important environmental questions."
Ball Aerospace, in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Colorado State University, developed the CloudSat spacecraft bus, which houses the instruments and sensors for measuring the properties of clouds. Ball also completed testing, and integrated the payload for CloudSat, and will perform launch operations and initial on-orbit commissioning. The spacecraft is designed around the proven Ball Commercial Platform (BCP) 2000, a spacecraft bus that can accept any type of Earth-sensing instrumentation that requires precise pointing control, with flexible and rapid target selection. The BCP 2000 has successfully flown on high-profile programs including QuickBird, QuikSCAT and ICESat.
For its sister satellite, the Cloud-Aerosol LIDAR and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations satellite or CALIPSO, Ball Aerospace built the scientific instrument and communications suite that includes the LIDAR and wide-field camera. The LIDAR is designed to scan the atmosphere with green and infrared laser light. A wide-field visible light camera and three-color infrared imaging radiometer is part of the LIDAR instrument to record additional information about clouds and aerosols. Scientists hope to use data from CALIPSO to construct three-dimensional models of the atmosphere that will improve our ability to predict future climate change.
Together, CloudSat and CALIPSO will be part of a constellation of satellites flying in orbital formation known as the "A-Train." The constellation includes Aqua, Aura, and PARASOL, delivering a combined set of measurements of the Earth's environment. The mission is part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program, which fosters innovative, low-cost Earth-observation missions designed to study the Earth as a global environmental system.
"A big part of our heritage includes instruments and spacecraft that are designed to study weather and the environment, which is a key focus in our current and future business," said Taylor.
Ball Aerospace celebrates its 50th year in business in 2006. The company began building pointing controls for military rockets in 1956, and later won a contract to build one of NASA's first spacecraft, the Orbiting Solar Observatory. Over the years, the company has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific "firsts" and now acts as a technology innovator in important national missions.
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