April 23, 2016 – It was supposed to be a three-year mission, but it turned into a few billion more measurements and seven extra years of science.
On Thursday, April 21, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and the French Space Agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) celebrated the tenth anniversary of the launch of CALIPSO, or the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation satellite mission at Langley’s Reid Conference Center.
The celebration included remarks from the CALIPSO principal investigator, NASA Langley’s David Winker; the CALIPSO co-principal investigator, Jacques Pelon from France’s Institut Pierre Simon Laplace; Mike Gazarik, vice president of engineering for Ball Aerospace; Pierre Tabary, programme manager for Atmosphere, Meteorology, Climate at CNES; and a keynote address from Gale Allen, NASA’s deputy chief scientist.
A pioneering research partnership between NASA Langley and CNES, CALIPSO launched on April 28, 2006 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with the CloudSat satellite, another NASA Earth observing mission to study clouds and aerosols, tiny particles suspended in the air.
For 10 years, CALIPSO has orbited the Earth and taken more than 5.7 billion lidar (light detection and ranging) measurements that probe the vertical structure and properties of clouds and aerosols such as dust, sea salt, ash and soot. CALIPSO is adding to scientists’ understanding of how changes in clouds and atmospheric aerosols shape the Earth’s weather, climate and air quality.
Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado, built the lidar, wide-field camera instrument, the communications equipment and integrated the payload on the spacecraft. Ball Aerospace also built the CloudSat spacecraft.
The mission exceeded its planned lifetime as a three-year mission. CALIPSO and CloudSat continue to fly in formation with the Aqua, Aura, Global Change Observation Mission-Water (GCOM-W) and Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, known as the A-Train satellite constellation.
More than 1,500 scientific and technical reports and published research papers have used CALIPSO data. Many of those combine CALIPSO’s lidar measurements with CloudSat’s cloud profiling radar data, as well as that of other A-Train instruments.