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Remote Sensors

Overview

Remote sensing instruments are of two primary types—active and passive. Active sensors, provide their own source of energy to illuminate the objects they observe. An active sensor emits radiation in the direction of the target to be investigated. The sensor then detects and measures the radiation that is reflected or backscattered from the target. Passive sensors, on the other hand, detect natural energy (radiation) that is emitted or reflected by the object or scene being observed. Reflected sunlight is the most common source of radiation measured by passive sensors.

Active Sensors

The majority of active sensors operate in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which makes them able to penetrate the atmosphere under most conditions. An active technique views the target from either end of a baseline of known length. The change in apparent view direction (parallax) is related to the absolute distance between the instrument and target.

  • Laser altimeter—An instrument that uses a lidar to measure the height of the platform (spacecraft or aircraft) above the surface. The height of the platform with respect to the mean Earth’s surface is used to determine the topography of the underlying surface.
  • Lidar—A light detection and ranging sensor that uses a laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) radar to transmit a light pulse and a receiver with sensitive detectors to measure the backscattered or reflected light. Distance to the object is determined by recording the time between transmitted and backscattered pulses and by using the speed of light to calculate the distance traveled.
  • Radar—An active radio detection and ranging sensor that provides its own source of electromagnetic energy. An active radar sensor, whether airborne or spaceborne, emits microwave radiation in a series of pulses from an antenna. When the energy reaches the target, some of the energy is reflected back toward the sensor. This backscattered microwave radiation is detected, measured, and timed. The time required for the energy to travel to the target and return back to the sensor determines the distance or range to the target. By recording the range and magnitude of the energy reflected from all targets as the system passes by, a two-dimensional image of the surface can be produced.
  • Ranging Instrument—A device that measures the distance between the instrument and a target object. Radars and altimeters work by determining the time a transmitted pulse (microwaves or light) takes to reflect from a target and return to the instrument. Another technique employs identical microwave instruments on a pair of platforms. Signals are transmitted from each instrument to the other, with the distance between the two determined from the difference between the received signal phase and transmitted (reference) phase. These are examples of active techniques. An active technique views the target from either end of a baseline of known length. The change in apparent view direction (parallax) is related to the absolute distance between the instrument and target.
  • Scatterometer—A high-frequency microwave radar designed specifically to measure backscattered radiation. Over ocean surfaces, measurements of backscattered radiation in the microwave spectral region can be used to derive maps of surface wind speed and direction.
  • Sounder—An instrument that measures vertical distribution of precipitation and other atmospheric characteristics such as temperature, humidity, and cloud composition.

Passive Sensors

Passive sensors include different types of radiometers and spectrometers. Most passive systems used in remote sensing applications operate in the visible, infrared, thermal infrared, and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Passive remote sensors include the following:

  • Accelerometer—An instrument that measures acceleration (change in velocity per unit time). There are two general types of accelerometers. One measures translational accelerations (changes in linear motions in one or more dimensions), and the other measures angular accelerations (changes in rotation rate per unit time).
  • Hyperspectral radiometer—An advanced multispectral sensor that detects hundreds of very narrow spectral bands throughout the visible, near-infrared, and mid-infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This sensor’s very high spectral resolution facilitates fine discrimination between different targets based on their spectral response in each of the narrow bands.
  • Imaging radiometer—A radiometer that has a scanning capability to provide a two-dimensional array of pixels from which an image may be produced. Scanning can be performed mechanically or electronically by using an array of detectors.
  • Radiometer—An instrument that quantitatively measures the intensity of electromagnetic radiation in some bands within the spectrum. Usually, a radiometer is further identified by the portion of the spectrum it covers; for example, visible, infrared, or microwave.
  • Sounder—An instrument that measures vertical distributions of atmospheric parameters such as temperature, pressure, and composition from multispectral information.
  • Spectrometer—A device that is designed to detect, measure, and analyze the spectral content of incident electromagnetic radiation. Conventional imaging spectrometers use gratings or prisms to disperse the radiation for spectral discrimination.
  • Spectroradiometer—A radiometer that measures the intensity of radiation in multiple wavelength bands (i.e., multispectral). Many times the bands are of high-spectral resolution, designed for remotely sensing specific geophysical parameters

The following tables list and describe many of the active and passive sensors whose data are supported by EOSDIS. Some of these sensors may overlap categories. They are listed by current, future, and historic missions.

CURRENT MISSIONS
Platform Instrument Type DAAC Comments
Altimeters - Radar and Laser (Lidar)
AIrborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface (AirMOSS) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
LP DAAC, ORNL DAAC P-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) will provide calibrated polarimetric measurements that will be used to retrieve root-zone soil moisture (RZSM) over the study sites. This is a part of the Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) programs.
Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) Cloud and Aerosol Lidar
(Active Sensor)
ASDC DAAC Two-wavelength polarization-sensitive lidar that provides high-resolution vertical profiles of aerosols and clouds.
Cloud-Aerosol Transport System on the International Space Station (CATS) Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) Lidar
(Active Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
Lidar remote sensing instrument that will provide range-resolved profile measurements of atmospheric aerosols and clouds from the International Space Station (ISS).
CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASDC DAAC, CloudSat Data Processing Center at (CSU)
Millimeter-wave radar that "slices" through clouds to see their vertical structure, providing a completely new observational capability from space. The key observations are the vertical profiles of cloud liquid water and ice water contents and related cloud physical and radiative properties. This is a cooperative mission with Canada.
DC-8 Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Experiment (LASE) Lidar (Active Sensor) GHRC DAAC Measures water vapor, aerosols, and clouds throughout the troposphere (CAMEX-4, TCSP, NAMMA projects).
NASA ER-2 Aircraft (ER-2) Cloud Lidar System (CLS) Lidar (Active Sensor) ASDC DAAC Designed to operate at high altitudes in order to obtain measurements above the highest clouds, the instrument provides the true height of cloud boundaries and the density structure of less dense clouds. The height structure of cirrus, cloud top density and multiple cloud layers may also be profiled.
Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) GEOS Altimeter (GA) Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
GES DISC Used for measuring the ocean surface characteristics and the spacecraft to ocean surface distance; frequency of operation is 13.9 GHz, with two modes of operation: global or long pulse (200 nsec) mode, and intensive or short pulse (12 nsec) mode.
Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
GES DISC
Provides next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. Used to unify precipitation measurements made by an international network of partner satellites to quantify when, where, and how much it rains or snows around the world.
Operation IceBridge (Airborne) Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM), Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor (LVIS), UTIG LiDARs (UTIGL), UAF Airborne Scanning LiDAR (UASL) Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown. Yields a three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. Helps scientists bridge the gap in polar observations between ICESat and ICESat-2.
Operation IceBridge (Airborne) Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder (MCoRDS), Snow Radar (SR), Accumulation Radar (AR), Ku-Band Radar Altimeter (KBRA), High Capability Radar Sounder (HiCARS) Radar
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown. Yields a three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. Helps scientists bridge the gap in polar observations between ICESat and ICESat-2.
Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 (OSTM/Jason-2) Poseidon-3 Altimeter (PA) Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Joint effort between NASA, NOAA, France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and the European Meteorological Satellite Organisation (EUMETSAT). Provides sea surface heights for determining ocean cirulation, climate change, and sea-level rise. Uses radar altimeter mounted on low-Earth orbiting satellite Jason-2.
Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC
Focused on land and ocean monitoring and composed of two polar-orbiting satellites operating day and night. Performs radar imaging, enabling them to acquire imagery regardless of the weather.
Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) L-Band Radar (LBR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC, NSIDC DAAC
Orbiting observatory that measures the amount of water in the top 5 cm (2 inches) of soil everywhere on Earth's surface.
Hyperspectral Instruments back to top
Aircraft Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) Imaging Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ORNL DAAC Has 224 contiguous channels, approximately 10 nm wide. Measurements are used to derive water vapor, ocean color, vegetation classification, mineral mapping, and snow and ice cover (BOREAS Project).
Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) L-band Radiometer (LBR), Nadir-Viewing Spectrometer (NVS) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Airborne remote sensing payload collecting detailed measurements of greenhouse gases on local to regional scales in the Alaskan Arctic. This is a part of the Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Electron Spectrometer(ES) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC First US operational satellite in deep space. Monitors variable solar wind condition, provides early warning of approaching coronal mass ejections and observes phenomena on Earth including changes in ozone, aerosols, dust and volcanic ash, cloud height, vegetation cover, and climate.
Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)
Pulse Height Analyzer (PHA) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
First US operational satellite in deep space. Monitors variable solar wind condition, provides early warning of approaching coronal mass ejections and observes phenomena on Earth including changes in ozone, aerosols, dust and volcanic ash, cloud height, vegetation cover, and climate.
NASA Earth Resources High-Altitude Airborne Science Aircraft (ER-2) Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Airborne Simulator (MAS) Spectroradiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
The MODIS Airborne Simulator (MAS) is an airborne scanning spectrometer that acquires high spatial resolution imagery of cloud and surface features from its vantage point on-board a NASA ER-2 high-altitude research aircraft.
Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) High-Resolution Grating Spectrometer (HRGS) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
First dedicated Earth remote sensing satellite to study atmospheric carbon dioxide from space. Collects space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize sources and sinks on regional scales.
Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) Cross-Track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Produces high-resolution, three-dimensional temperature, pressure, and moisture profiles that are used to enhance weather forecasting models.
Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP)
Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Advanced suite of two hyper spectral instruments, extending the 25-plus year total-ozone and ozone-profile records.
Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The SORCE Satellite orbits around the Earth accumulating solar data. Spectral measurements identify the irradiance of the sun by characterizing the Sun's energy and emissions in the form of color that can then be translated into quantities and elements of matter. SORCE measures the Sun's output with the use of state-of-the-art radiometers, spectrometers,photodiodes,detectors, and bolometers engineered into instruments mounted on a satellite observatory.
Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE)
Solar Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment
(SOLSTICE)
Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Measures the solar spectral irradiance of the total solar disk in the ultraviolet wavelengths from 115 to 430 nm.
Imaging Radar back to top
Operation IceBridge (Airborne) Digital Mapping System (DMS), KT-19 Skin Surface Temperature Sensor (KSSTS), GPS and Navigation (GPSN)
Imager
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Measures changes in Greenland and Antarctica ice sheet volume to maintain a record of data between ICESat and ICESat-2. Improves understanding and simulation of ice sheet flow and volume change by documenting glacier ice thickness, basal topography and other geophysical properties. Documents changes in sea ice thickness in the Arctic and Southern Oceans. Improves sea ice thickness data by advancing technologies for measuring surface elevation, freeboard and snow depth.
Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) Imaging Camera
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
NASA received funding from NOAA to refurbish the DSCOVR spacecraft and its solar wind instruments, develop the ground segment, and manage launch and activation of DSCOVR.
The Air Force funds and oversees the launch services for
the spacecraft. The satellite also hosts NASA-funded
secondary sensors for Earth and space science observations.
The Earth science data will be processed at NASA's DSCOVR
Science Operations Center and archived and distributed by
NASA's Atmospheric Science Data Center.
Ground Volume Imaging Lidar (VIL) Lidar (Active Sensor) ASDC DAAC, ORNL DAAC Determines the vertical cloud structure (FIFE, FIRE, and BOREAS projects).
Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar
(UAVSAR)
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC
The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or
UAVSAR, is an imaging radar instrument that collects key
measurements of Earth deformation. When flown over the same area multiple times, it can determine how land features have changed. So far, it has been put to work studying climate change
in the Arctic and examining Earth deformation after major
earthquakes and volcanoes.
Multispectral Instruments back to top
Aqua Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer
(AMSR-E)
Multichannel Microwave Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GHRC DAAC,
NSIDC DAAC
Measures precipitation, oceanic water vapor, cloud water, near-surface wind speed, sea and land surface temperature, soil moisture, snow cover, and sea ice. Provides spatial resolutions of 5.4 km, 12 km, 21 km, 25 km, 38 km, 56 km, and 0.25 deg resolution.
Aqua
Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System
(CERES)
Broadband Scanning Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
Has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
Aqua
Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS)
Imaging Spectroradiometer
(Passive Sensor)
LP DAAC, NSIDC DAAC, PO. DAAC, GES DISC, LAADS
Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation
(CALIPSO)
Imaging Infrared Radiometer
(IIR)
Imaging Infrared Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
Nadir-viewing, non-scanning imager having a 64 km swath with a pixel size of 1 km. Provides measurements at three channels in the thermal infrared window region at 8.7 mm, 10.5 mm, and 12.0 mm.
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program
(DMSP)
Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) Multispectral Microwave Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC, GHRC DAAC, NSIDC DAAC,ORNL DAAC, PO.DAAC
The instrument has seven channels and four frequencies. Measures atmospheric, ocean and terrain microwave brightness temperatures which are used to derive ocean near-surface wind speed, atmospheric integrated water vapor and cloud/rain liquid water content sea ice extent and concentration.
Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)
National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
The data collected by NISTAR on Earth’s albedo, incoming
short- and long-wave radiation, and outgoing long-wave radiation
has never been measured from Lagrangian point 1 (L1) position before. DSCOVR’s location at the L1 observing position permits long
integration times because no scanning is required. Radiometric accuracy of 0.1–1.5% (varies with band) is expected,
which is up to a 10-fold improvement in accuracy over
current Earth-orbiting satellite data.
NASA Earth Resources High-Altitude Airborne Science Aircraft (ER-2)
Advanced Microwave Precipitation Radiometer
(AMPR)
Microwave Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GHRC DAAC
Cross-track scanning total power microwave radiometer with four channels centered at 10.7, 19.35, 37.1 and 85.5 GHz. (FIRE ACE, Teflun-B, TRMM-LBA, CAMEX-4. TCSP, TC4 projects).
Global Change Observation Mission
(GCOM-W1)
Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2
(AMSR2)
Scanning Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC The GCOM mission is a two series of satellites, GCOM-W for
observing water circulation changes and GCOM-C for climate
changes. The GCOM-W with a microwave radiometer onboard
will observe precipitation, vapor amounts, wind velocity
above the ocean, sea water temperature, water levels
on land areas, and snow depths.
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 13-15 (GOES 13-15) Multi-Channel-Energy Sensor Imager (Passive Sensor) PO.DAAC The GOES Imager is a multi-Channel instrument designed to sense radiant and solar-reflected energy from sampled areas of the Earth. The multi-element spectral channels simultaneously sweep east-west and west-east along a north-to-south path by means of a two-axis mirror scan system.
Global Precipitation Measurement Mission Core Spacecraft (GPM) GPM Microwave Imager
(GMI)
Microwave Imager
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Improved knowledge of the Earth's water cycle and its link to climate change. New insights into precipitation microphysics, storm structures and large-scale atmospheric processes. Extended capabilities in monitoring and predicting hurricanes and other extreme weather events. Improved forecasting abilities for natural hazards, including floods, droughts and landslides. Enhanced numerical prediction skills for weather andclimate. Better agricultural crop forecasting and monitoring of freshwater resources.
Landsat 7 Enhanced Thermatic Mapper Plus (ETM+) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
LP DAAC
The Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) instrument is a fixed
“whisk-broom”, eight-band, multispectral scanning radiometer
capable of providing high-resolution imaging information of the
Earth’s surface. It detects spectrally-filtered radiation in VNIR,
SWIR, LWIR and panchromatic bands from the sun-lit
Earth in a 183 km wide swath when orbiting at an altitude of 705 km.
NASA Earth Resources High-Altitude Airborne Science Aircraft
(ER-2)
MODIS Airborne Simulator
(MAS)
Imaging Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC, GHRC DAAC
ORNL DAAC
The instrument has 50 spectral bands. Provides spatial resolution of 50 m at typical flight altitudes.
Operation IceBridge (Airborne) Gravimeter Gravimeter
(Passive Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
The gravimeter measures the shape of seawater-filled cavities
at the edge of some major fast-moving glaciers. Data about the
amount of water under ice fills in a crucial gap in knowledge related
to calving and melting of glaciers. Water has less mass than rock and thus exhibits a lower gravitational pull, meaning that the gravimeter can show what lies under the ice.
Operation IceBridge (Airborne) Magnetometer Magnetometer
(Passive Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Operation IceBridge also gathers data about the magnetic properties of bedrock beneath ice sheets and glaciers to help identify the type of rock present. The magnetometer, which resides in the tail boom or “stinger” on the P-3B, measures minute changes in the magneticfield below. Knowing the rock type helps improve the models of the shape of the bed. Different rock types also change the basal conditions of a glacier, so understanding more about the bedrock will tell us more about how the ice and rock will interact.
Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 (OSTM/Jason-2) Advanced Microwave Radiometer (AMR) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Earth's oceans are a thermostat for our planet, keeping it from heating up quickly. More than 80 percent of the heat from global warming over the past 50 years has been absorbed by the oceans. Scientists want to know how much more heat the oceans can absorb, and how the warmer water affects Earth's atmosphere. OSTM/Jason-2 will help them better calculate the oceans' ability to store heat. The mission will also allow us to better understand large-scale climate phenomena like El Niño and La Niña, which can have wide-reaching effects. OSTM/Jason-2 data will be used in applications as diverse as, for example,routing ships, improving the safety and efficiency of offshore industry operations, managing fisheries, forecast-ing hurricanes and monitoring river and lake levels.
Soil Moisture Active Passive
(SMAP)
L-Band Radiometer (LBR) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC Using an advanced radiometer, the satellite peers beneath clouds, vegetation and other surface features to monitor water and energy fluxes, helping improve flood predictions and drought monitoring. Data from the three-year mission will play a crucial role in understanding changes in water availability, food production and other societal impacts of climate change.
Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership
(Suomi NPP)
Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System
(CERES)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
CERES products include both solar-reflected and Earth-emitted radiation from the top of the atmosphere to the Earth's surface. Cloud properties are determined using simultaneous measurements by other EOS and S-NPP instruments such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Visible and Infrared Sounder (VIRS). Analyses using
CERES data, build upon the foundation laid by previous missions such as NASA Langley's Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE), leading to a better understanding of the role of clouds and the energy cycle in global climate change.
Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership
(Suomi NPP)
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite
(VIIRS)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
LAADS, LP DAAC, NSIDC DAAC, OB. DAAC Suomi NPP is the first next generation polar-orbiting satellite in the JPSS series, and is considered the bridge between NOAA's legacy polar satellite fleet, NASA's Earth observing missions and JPSS constellation.
Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE)
XUV Photometer System
(XPS)
Photometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
SORCE measures the Sun's output with the use of state-of-the-art radiometers, spectrometers, photodiodes, detectors, and bolometers engineered into instruments mounted on a satellite observatory.
Terra Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
(ASTER)
Multispectral radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
LP DAAC,
ORNL DAAC
Measures surface radiance, reflectance, emissivity, and temperature. Provides spatial resolutions of 15 m, 30 m, and 90 m.
Terra
Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System
(CERES)
Broadband Scanning Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
The instrument has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
Terra
Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer
(MISR)
Imaging Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC,
ORNL DAAC
Obtains precisely calibrated images in four spectral bands, at nine different angles, to provide aerosol, cloud, and land surface data. Provides spatial resolution of 250 m to 1.1 km.
Terra
Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS)
Imaging Spectroradiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GHRC DAAC,
LAADS,
LP DAAC,
NSIDC DAAC,
OB.DAAC,
ORNL DAAC,
PO.DAAC

Measures many environmental parameters (ocean and land surface temperatures, fire products, snow and ice cover, vegetation properties and dynamics, surface reflectance and emissivity, cloud and aerosol properties, atmospheric temperature and water vapor, ocean color and pigments, and ocean biological properties). Provides moderate spatial resolutions of 250 m (bands 1 and 2), 500 m (bands 3-7), and 1 km (bands 8-36).
Polarimetric Instruments back to top
Aircraft POLarization and Directionality of the Earth's Reflectances
(POLDER)
Polarimeter
(Passive Sensor)
ORNL DAAC
Measures the polarization and the directional and spectral characteristics of the solar light reflected by aerosols, clouds, and the Earth’s surface (BOREAS Project).
Aircraft Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer
(PSR)
Microwave Polarimeter
(Passive Sensor)
GHRC DAAC
Provides fully polarimetric (four Stokes' parameters: Tv, Th, TU, and TV) imagery of upwelling thermal emissions at several of the most important microwave sensing frequencies (10.7, 18.7, 37.0, and 89.0 GHz), thus providing measurements from X to W band.
Ranging Instruments back to top
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment
(GRACE)
Super STAR Accelerometer
(ACC)
Accelerometer
(Passive Sensor)
PO.DAAC
The Onera SuperSTAR Accelerometer measures the non-gravitational forces acting on the GRACE satellites.
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment
(GRACE)

K-Band Ranging System
(KBR)
Ranging Instrument
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC
The dual-frequency KBR instrument measures the range between the GRACE satellites to extremely high precision.
Scatterometers back to top
QuikSCAT

SeaWinds Radar Scatterometer
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC, PO.DAAC
Dual Pencil-Beam Ku Band that measures ocean vector winds at a nominal grid resolution of 25 km.
Single Channel/Total Power Radiometers and Imagers back to top
Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation
(CALIPSO)
Wide-Field Camera
(WFC)
Nadir Viewing Imager
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
Fixed, nadir-viewing imager with a single spectral channel covering the 620-270 nm region.
Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment
(SORCE)
Total Irradiance Monitor
(TIM)
Total power radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Measures total solar irradiance. It has a wide range of potential applications. In metrology, for example, total power radiometers are used for primary-level microwave noise measurements. Standard, ambient, and unknown noise sources are connected to the radiometer input, and the respective output powers are measured.
Sounding Instruments back to top
Aqua Atmospheric Infrared Sounder
(AIRS)

Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Measures air temperature, humidity, clouds, and surface temperature. Provides spatial resolution of ~13.5 km in the IR channels and ~2.3 km in the visible. Swath retrieval products are at 50 km resolution.
Aqua
Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit
(AMSU)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC,
GHRC DAAC
The instrument has 15 channels. Measures temperature profiles in the upper atmosphere. Has a cloud filtering capability for tropospheric temperature observations. Provides spatial resolution of 40 km at nadir.
Aqua
Humidity Sounder for Brazil
(HSB)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The Humidity Sounder for Brazil (HSB) is primarily a humidity sounder providing supplementary water vapor and liquid data to be used in the cloud clearing process. HSB is a near identical copy of AMSU-B. Due to budget constraints, it implements only four passive moisture sounding channels of the five AMSU-B channels.
Aura
High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder
(HIRDLS)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Measures infrared emissions at the Earth’s limb in 21 channels to obtain profiles of temperature, ozone, CFCs, various other gases affecting ozone chemistry, and aerosols at 1 km vertical resolution. In addition, HIRDLS measures the location of polar stratospheric clouds.
Aura Microwave Limb Sounder
(MLS)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Five broad band radiometers and 28 spectrometers measure microwave thermal emission from the limb of Earth’s atmosphere to derive profiles of ozone, SO2, N2O, OH and other atmospheric gases, temperature, pressure, and cloud ice.
Aura
Ozone Monitoring Instrument
(OMI)
Multispectral Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The Instrument has 740 wavelength bands in visible and ultraviolet. Measures total ozone and profiles of ozone, N2O, SO2, and several other chemical species.
Aura
Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer
(TES)
Imaging Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
High-resolution imaging infrared Fourier-transform spectrometer that operates in both nadir and limb-sounding modes. Provides profile measurements of ozone, water vapor, carbon monoxide, methane, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric acid carbon dioxide, and ammonia.
DC-8 High Altitude Monolithic Microwave integrated Circuit (MMIC) Sounding Radiometer
(HAMSR)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GHRC DAAC
Measures vertical profiles of temperature, water vapor, from the surface to 100mb in 2-4 km layers. (CAMEX-4, NAMMA projects).
Suomi-National Polar-orbiting Partnership
(Suomi NPP)
Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder
(ATMS)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), a cross-track scanner with 22 channels, provides sounding observations needed to retrieve profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture for civilian operational weather forecasting as well as continuity of these measurements for climate monitoring purposes. Available in Mirador.
Suomi-National Polar-orbiting Partnership
(Suomi NPP)
Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite
(OMPS)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC The Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) is the next generation of back-scattered UltraViolet (BUV) radiation sensors. The first OMPS is currently flying onboard the Suomi NPP spacecraft and has a dual mission to provide NOAA with critical operational ozone measurements while continuing the nearly 40 year NASA records of total column and profile ozone created by previous BUV (Backscatter Ultravoilet) sensors.
Terra Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere
(MOPITT)
Sounder
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC

Measures carbon monoxide and methane in the troposphere. Is able to collect data under cloud-free conditions. Provides horizontal resolution of ~22 km and vertical resolution of ~4 km.
FUTURE MISSIONS back
Platform Instrument Type DAAC Comments
Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment
(ABOVE)
TBD Airborne ORNL DAAC Large-scale study of environmental change and its implications for social-ecological systems.
Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America (Act-America) Multi-Functional Fiber Laser LiDAR (MFLL), High-Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL), Picarro Spectrometer (PS) Lidar, Spectrometer (Active, Passive Sensor) ORNL DAAC To advance society's ability to predict and manage future climate change by providing policy-relevant quantification and understanding of the carbon cycle.
Atmospheric Tomography Mission (Atom) Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared
Interferometry (BETTII)
Interferometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC Identify the important chemical processes that control the short-lived climate forcing agents CH4, O3, and black carbon (BC). Understand how anthropogenic emissions affect the chemical reactivity of the atmosphere on a global scale. Investigate how to improve chemistry climate modeling of these processes. Distribution of BC and other aerosols important as short lived climate forces determine the sources of new particles. Study how rapidly aerosols grow to CCN-active sizes and how well these processes are represented in models.
Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory
(CLARREO)
Infrared Spectrometer
(IR)
Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC Provide accurate, credible, and tested climate records that lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.
Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory
(CLARREO)
Radio Occultation
(RO)
Radio Occultation
(Active Sensor)
ASDC DAAC Provide accurate, credible, and tested climate records that lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.
Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory
(CLARREO)
Reflected Solar Imaging Spectrometer
(RS)
Imaging Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC Provide accurate, credible, and tested climate records that lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.
Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System
(CYGNSS)
Delay Doppler Mapping Instrument
(DDMI)
Scatterometer
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Measure Ocean surface wind speed in all precipitating conditions, including those experienced in the tropical Cyclone (TC) eyewall. Measure ocean surface wind speed in the TC iner core with sufficient frequency to resolve genesis and rapid intensification processes. This study will focus to understand the coupling between ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation, and convective dynamics in the inner core of a TC.
ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) IR Radiometer (IRR)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
LP DAAC
Identify critical thresholds of water use and water stress in key climate sensitive biomes;
Detect the timing, location, and predictive factors leading to plant water uptake decline and/or cessation over the diurnal cycle; and, Measure agricultural water consumptive use over the contiguous United States (CONUS) at spatiotemporal scales applicable to improve drought estimation accuracy.
Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation
(GEDI)
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) Lidar
(Active Sensor)
LP DAAC To address these core questions;
Quantify the distribution of above-ground carbon at fine spatial resolution;
Quantify changes in carbon resulting from disturbance and subsequent recovery;
Quantify the spatial and temporal distribution of forest structure and its relationship to habitat quality and biodiversity; Quantify the sequestration potential of forests through time under changing land use and climate
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On
(GRACE FO)
K-Band Ranging Instrument Assembly (KBR) Microwave
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Provides high-temporal-resolution gravity field measurements for the purpose of tracking large-scale water movement. GRACE-FO is the follow-on mission to GRACE, launched in 2002.
Ice, Cloud,and Land Elevation Satellite-2
(ICESat-2)
Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System
(ATLAS)
Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC
Quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to current and recent sea-level change, as well as ice-sheet linkages to climate conditions.
Quantifying regional patterns of ice-sheet changes to assess what drives those changes, and to improve predictive ice-sheet models.
International Space Station Lightning Imaging Sensor
(ISS-LIS)
Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) Imager
(Passive Sensor)
GHRC DAAC
One of the main objectives is to study the global distribution of lightning and its relationship to storm microphysics and dynamics, its dependence on regional climatic environments and their changes, its relationship to precipitation and cloud type, and the incorporation of these relationships into diagnostic and predictive models of global precipitation,the general circulation and the hydrological cycle.
Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) Cross-Track Infrared Sounder(CrIS), Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), Visible/Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI) Radiometer, Sounder (Passive Sensor) TBD To answer several science questions such as, How is the global Earth system changing? What are the primary forcings of the Earth system?
Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) Cross-Track Infrared Sounder(CrIS), Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), Visible/Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS),
Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI)
Radiometer, Sounder (Passive Sensor) TBD Produce and deliver new satellite data, imagery and products to increase the accuracy and reliability of weather forecasting capabilities for severe weather events and phenomena— such as tropical cyclones— i.e., Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Improve our Earth’s ocean and coastal applications’ use of polar-orbiting satellite data. Continuing the enhancement of our long-term environmental data sets to facilitate long-term climate monitoring and prediction, and Develop our land applications.
NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) TBD TBD GES DISC, ORNL DAAC Use the full range of NASA satellite observations and modeling/analysis capabilities to establish the accuracy, quantitative uncertainties, and utility of products for supporting national and international policy, regulatory, and management activities. Maintain global emphasis while providing finer scale regional information, utilizing space-based and surface-based/in situ data.Develop an evolutionary approach which accommodates planned increasing capabilities in space-based measurements, modeling, and data assimilation. Harness unique capabilities of NASA centers and the NASA-funded investigator community, making use of competitive peer review wherever possible. Continue to engage with, and contribute to, related U.S. and international systems. Rapidly initiate generation and distribution of products, both for evaluation and to inform near-term policy development and planning.
North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL), Spectrometer for Sky-Scanning Sun-Trackong Atmospheric Research (4STAR) Lidar, Spectrometer (Active, Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC, OB.DAAC Investigation of mechanistic controls of ocean ecosystem annual cycle and associated biogenic aerosols in the marine troposphere by utilizing two interdisciplinary types of datasets: Biological oceanographic and atmospheric comoposition.
NASA-ISRO SAR Mission
(NISAR)
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC Joint mission with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Designed to observe and take measurements of some of the planet's most complex processes, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.
Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN), in situ temperature and salinity probes (TSP), gravitometer (GVM) Interferometer (Passive Sensor) PO.DAAC Facilitate to improved understanding and estimates of sea level rise by addressing the question: "To what extent are the oceans melting Greenland’s ice from below?" Perform physical oceanography measurements and high resolution, high precision elevation measurements of Greenland’s coastal glaciers. To provide a revolutionary dataset for modeling ocean/ice interactions and answer an important question regarding future sea level rise.
ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS (ORACLES) Polarimeter, Radar, LiDAR Radar, Lidar, Polarimeter (Active, Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC Determine the impact of African Biomass burning aerosol on cloud properties and the radiation balance over the South Atlantic. Acquire a process level understanding of aerosol radiation interactions and resulting cloud adjustments, as well as aerosol-cloud interactions, that can be applied globally. Improve future measurements by gathering testbed datasets that can be used to verify and refine current and future observation methods and simulation techniques.
Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 on the International Space Station (OCO-3) High-Resolution Grating Spectrometer (HRGS) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Collect the space-based measurements needed to quantify variations in the column averaged atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) dry air mole fraction, XCO2, with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to improve our understanding of surface CO2 sources and sinks (fluxes) on regional scales (≥1000 km)
Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and ocean Ecosystem
(PACE)
Ocean color Spectrometer(OCS) Polarimeter
(Passive Sensor)
OB.DAAC
Make essential global ocean color measurements.
Understand the carbon cycle.
Provide extended data records on clouds and aerosols.
Statospheric Aeosol and Gas Experiment
III-International Space Station (SAGE III-ISS)
Statospheric Aeosol and Gas Experiment
(SAGE III-ISS)
Sun Photometer/Solar Occultation
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
Provides global, long-term measurements of key components of the Earth's atmosphere. The most important of these are the vertical distribution of aerosols and ozone from the upper troposphere through the stratosphere. In addition, SAGE-III also provides unique measurements of temperature in the stratosphere and mesosphere and profiles of trace gases such as water vapor and nitrogen dioxide that play significant roles in atmospheric radiative and chemical processes.
Satellites for Observation and Communications
(SAOCOM)
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC One of the major objectives is to develop soil moisture map products for giving support to agricultural, hydrological, health applications, and emergencies in general. Planned validations with SMAP soil moisture.
Sentinel 3 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC
Primary objective is marine observation, and it will study sea-surface topography, sea and land surface temperature, ocean and land color. Composed of three satellites, the mission's primary instrument is a radar altimeter, but the polar-orbiting satellites will carry multiple instruments, including optical imagers.
Sentinel 5P Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC
A precursor satellite mission, SENTINEL-5P aims to fill in the data gap and provide data continuity between the retirement of the Envisat satellite and NASA's Aura mission and the launch of SENTINEL-5. The mission will perform atmospheric monitoring.
Surface Water Ocean Topography
(SWOT)
Advanced Microwave Radiometer
(AMR)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Provides sea surface heights (SSH) and terrestrial water heights over a 120 km wide swath with a +/-10 km gap at the nadir track. Over the deep oceans, provide SSH within each swath with a posting every 2 km x 2 km, and a precision not to exceed 0.8 cm when averaged over the area. Over land, download the raw data for ground processing and produce a water mask able to resolve 100 meter wide rivers and lakes of 250 meter2 in size, wetlands, or reservoirs. Associated with this mask will be water level elevations with an accuracy of 10 cm and a slope accuracy of 1 cm/1 km. Cover at least 90 percent of the globe. Gaps are not to exceed 10 percent of Earth's surface.
Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution
(TEMPO)
UV and Visible Offner Grating Spectrometer (UVOGS) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
To answer several science questions: What are the temporal and spatial variations of emissions of gases and aerosols important for air quality and climate? How do physical, chemical, and dynamical processes determine tropospheric composition and air quality over spatial scales ranging from urban to continental, and temporally from diurnal to seasonal? How does air pollution drive climate forcing, and how does climate change affect air quality on a continental scale? How can observations from space improve air quality forecasts and assessments for societal benefit? How does intercontinental pollution transport affect air quality? How do episodic events (e.g., wild fires, dust outbreaks, and volcanic eruptions) affect atmospheric composition and air quality?
Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor-1 on the International Space Station (TSIS-1) Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM), Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC Provides absolute measurements of the total solar irradiance (TSI) and spectral solar irradiance (SSI), important for accurate scientific models of climate change and solar variability.
HISTORIC MISSIONS back
Platform Instrument Type DAAC Comments
Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite (ACRIMSAT) Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor (ACRIM III) Total Power Radiometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC The purpose of the Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor III (ACRIM III) instrument is to study total solar irradiance from the Sun. The ACRIM III package is flying on a spacecraft called ACRIMSAT. ACRIMSAT data will be correlated with possible global warming data, ice cap shrinkage data, and ozone layer depletion data.
Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) Phased Array L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) Radar (Active Sensor) ASF DAAC Developed to contribute to the fields of mapping, precise regional land-coverage observation, disaster monitoring, and resource surveying. ALOS was a mission of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) Panchromatic Remote Sensing Instrument for Stereo Mapping (PRISM) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) ASF DAAC Panchromatic radiometer with 2.5m spatial resolution that provides highly accurate digital surface model (DSM).
Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) Advanced Visible and Near Infrared Radiometer type 2 (AVNIR-2) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) ASF DAAC AVNIR-2 is a successor to AVNIR that was on board the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS), which was launched in August 1996.
Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS) Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC First international space platform dedicated to Earth environmental research, focused on global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, and deforestation. Launched in August 1996 and ceased to operate in June 1997.
Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS) Wind Scatterometer (SCAT) Radar Scatterometer (Active Sensor) PO.DAAC Dual Fan-Beam Ku Band that measures ocean vector winds at a nominal grid resolution of 25 km.
Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS II) Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer Scanning Radiometer (Passive Sensor) NSIDC DAAC The ADEOS-II mission was operational for only 10 months - when an anomaly stopped all further operations on Oct. 24, 2003. Indeed a great loss in Earth observations for Japan and its partners as well as for the entire Earth observation community.
Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS II) SeaWinds Scaterometer (Active Sensor) NSIDC DAAC, PO.DAAC

SeaWinds is a part of the Earth Observing System (EOS) which is designed to address global environmental changes, and is a joint mission with the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA).

Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR) Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR) Radar (Active Sensor) ASF DAAC, NSIDC DAAC All-weather imaging tool able to penetrate through clouds and collect data at night. The longer wavelengths can also penetrate into the forest canopy and in extremely dry areas, through thin sand cover and dry snow pack.
Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D (Aquarius) L-band radiometer (LBR), L-band scatterometer (LBS) Radiometer, Scaterometer
(Passive, Active Sensor)
OB.DAAC, PO.DAAC
Instrument that was aboard the Argentine Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas-D (SAC-D) spacecraft. It measured global sea surface salinity to better predict future climate conditions. SAC-D suffered a power supply failure in June 2015, ending the mission.
DISCOVER-AQ Aircraft Instruments, Ground Instruments, Ozonosonde
Imaging Infrared Radiometer (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ) project. Measures air quality to distinguish between pollution high in the atmosphere and that near the surface where people live and breathe. Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program. Final DISCOVER-AQ Flights took place Sunday, 10 August 2014. This was 4 years campaign.
Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment II (SAGE II) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC Provides a wealth of data on the chemistry and dynamic motions of the Earth's upper troposphere and stratosphere (10-40 kilometers).
Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) Earth Radiation Budget Experiment nonscanner (ERBE-NS) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC The ERBE nonscanner (ERBE-NS) instruments are designed to make broad spectral and spatial measurements of the earth's reflected solar and emitted radiation and to measure incident solar flux. This is accomplished by five radiometric channels: four nominally earth-viewing channels and a solar monitor channel.

European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS-1) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar (Active Sensor) ASF DAAC, Part of a family of multi-disciplinary Earth Observation Satellites. Emitted a radar pulse with a spherical wavefront which reflects from the surface. Measured the range using an onboard tracker. Launched in 1991 and ended in 2000.
European Remote Sensing satellite
(ERS-1)
Active Microwave Instrument (AMI-WIND) Microwave
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC
Part of a family of multi-disciplinary Earth Observation Satellites. Emitted a radar pulse with a spherical wavefront which reflects from the surface. Measured the range using an onboard tracker. Launched in 1991 and ended in 2000.
European Remote Sensing satellite
(ERS-1)

Radar Altimetry (RA) Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC Part of a family of multi-disciplinary Earth Observation Satellites. Emitted a radar pulse with a spherical wavefront which reflects from the surface. Measured the range using an onboard tracker. Launched in 1991 and ended in 2000.
European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS-2) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar (Active Sensor) ASF DAAC Part of a family of multi-disciplinary Earth Observation Satellites. Emitted a radar pulse with a spherical wavefront which reflects from the surface. Measured the range using an onboard tracker. Launched in 1995 and retired in 2011.
European Remote Sensing satellite
(ERS-2)
Active Microwave Instrument (AMI-WIND)
Microwave
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC
Part of a family of multi-disciplinary Earth Observation Satellites. Emitted a radar pulse with a spherical wavefront which reflects from the surface. Measured the range using an onboard tracker. Launched in 1995 and retired in 2011.
European Remote Sensing satellite
(ERS-2)

Radar Altimetry (RA)
Radar
(Active Sensor)
ASF DAAC Part of a family of multi-disciplinary Earth Observation Satellites. Emitted a radar pulse with a spherical wavefront which reflects from the surface. Measured the range using an onboard tracker. Launched in 1995 and retired in 2011.
Geodetic Satellite
(GEOSAT)
Geosat Altimeter (GA) Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC Carried an altimeter that was capable of measuring the distance from satellite to sea surface with a relative precision of about 5 cm. Ended in January 1990, due to failure of the two on-board tape recorders.
Geosat Follow-on (GFO) GFO Altimeter (GA) Altimeter (Active Sensor) PO.DAAC
One of the multi-satellite sensors incorporated into Ocean Surface Current Analysis Real-time (OSCAR). Data measurements from these satellites will provide scientists with better understanding of ocean circulation, ice sheet topography, and climate change.
Group for High Resolution Sea Surface Temperature (GHRSST) NA NA PO.DAAC The Group for High Resolution Sea Surface Temperature (GHRSST) was established to foster an international focus and coordination for the development of a new generation of global, multi-sensor, high-resolution near real time SST products. It brings together international space agencies, research institutes, universities, and government agencies to collectively address the scientific, logistical and managerial challenges posed by creating the SST data products and services within the Project.
Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS) Visible and Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC The VISSR imagery coverage extends roughly from ±60º in latitude and from 80º E to 160 W in longitude. In addition, the GMS satellite data represent an important link and an integral part in the WWW (World Weather Watch) program, sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES 1-12) Advanced Very-High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) PO.DAAC The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Program (GOES) is a joint effort of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Airborne Detector for Energetic Lightning Emissions (ADELE) Sounder (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Advanced Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS) Sounder (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) Lidar (Active Sensor) GHRC DAAC Environmental payload includes the Cloud Physics Lidar to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Scanning High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (S-HIS) Interferometer/Sounder (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) High Altitude Wind and Rain Profiling Radar (HIWRAP) Radar (Active Sensor) GHRC DAAC Over-storm payload includes the HIWRAP conically scanning Doppler radar to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) High Altitude MMIC (Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits) Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC The High Altitude Monolithic Microwave integrated Circuit (MMIC) Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) is a microwave atmospheric sounder developed by JPL under the NASA Instrument Incubator Program. Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRAD) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC Part of Earth Ventures 1 (EV-1) program.
Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite
(ICESat)
Geoscience Laser Altimeter System
(GLAS)
Laser Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
NSIDC DAAC The main objective was to measure ice sheet elevations and changes in elevation through time. Secondary objectives include measurement of cloud and aerosol height profiles, land elevation and vegetation cover, and sea ice thickness. Launched in January 2003 and ended in August 2010.
Japanese Earth Resources Satellite (JERS-1) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar (Active Sensor) ASF DAAC Though the design life of FUYO-1 (JERS-1) was 2 years, the satellite had obtained observational data for more than 6 years, and ended the mission on October 12, 1998.
Joint Altimetry Satellite Oceanography Network
(Jason-1)
Jason Microwave Radiometer
(JMR)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
PO.DAAC
The JMR acquires measurements via three separate frequency channels to determine the path delay of the altimeter’s radar signal due to atmospheric water vapour.
Joint Altimetry Satellite Oceanography Network
(Jason-1)

Poseidon-2Altimeter (Poseidon-2) Radar Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC Measures sea level, wave height, wind speed, and ionospheric correction. Decommissioned in July 2013.
Meteor-3 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

The TOMS instrument has mapped in detail the global ozone distribution as well as the Antarctic ’ozone hole’, which forms September through November of each year. In addition to ozone, TOMS has measured sulfur dioxide released in volcanic eruptions.

NOAA Polar Operational Envrionmental Satellite (NOAA POES) Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU)
Sounder (Passive Sensor) GES DISC Available in MIrador and OpenDAP.
NOAA Polar Operational Envrionmental Satellite (NOAA POES) Advanced Very-High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Multi Spectral Radiometer (Passive Sensor) PO.DAAC, ORNL DAAC Has four or six bands, depending on platform. Telemetried resolutions are 1.1 km (HRPT data) and 4 km (Pathfinder V5 and GAC data). 5km, 25 km spatial resolution.
NOAA Polar Operational Envrionmental Satellite (NOAA POES) Tiros Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS) Sounder (Passive Sensor) GES DISC, NSIDC DAAC Available in MIrador and OpenDAP.
Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment-III Meteor 3M (SAGE-III Meteor-3M) Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment III (SAGE III) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC The third stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III) Meteor-3M was the EOS component of the Russian Meteor-3M mission. SAGE III provided accurate, long-term measurements of ozone, aerosols, water vapor, and other key parameters of Earth's atmosphere.
Nimbus-7 Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
OB.DAAC

The most important objective of the Coastal Zone Color Scanner mission was to determine if satellite remote sensing of color could be used to identify and quantify material suspended or dissolved in ocean waters. Specifically CZCS attempted to discriminate between organic and inorganic materials in the water, determine the quantity of material and discriminate between different organic particulate types.

Nimbus-7
Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
The mission had the primary goals of determining, for at least one year: the Earth's average monthly energy budget and its monthly variations, the seasonal movement of energy from the tropics to the poles, and the average daily variation in the energy budget on a regional scale (data every 160 miles).
Nimbus-7
Limb Infrared Monitor of the Stratosphere (LIMS) Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The Limb Infrared Monitor of the Stratosphere experiment was launched on the NIMBUS 7 spacecraft to test the capabilities of infrared limb scanning radiometry to sound the composition and structure of the middle atmosphere.
Nimbus-7
Stratospheric Aerosol Measurement II (SAM II) Photometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
The Stratospheric Aerosol Measurement II (SAM II) experiment flew aboard the Nimbus-7 spacecraft and provided vertical profiles of aerosol extinction in both the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. The SAM II data coverage began on October 29, 1978 and extended through December 18, 1993 until SAM II was no longer able to acquire the Sun.
Nimbus-7
Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SBUV), Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer II (TOMS II) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
Research-and-development satellite served as a stabilized, Earth-oriented platform for the testing of advanced systems for sensing and collecting data in the pollution, oceanographic and meteorological disciplines.
Nimbus-7
Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) Multispectral Microwave Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC,
GES DISC,
NSIDC DAAC,
PO.DAAC
Ten channels. Measured sea surface temperatures, ocean near-surface winds, water vapor and cloud liquid water content, sea ice extent, sea ice concentration, snow cover, snow moisture, rainfall rates, and differential of ice types.
OrbView-2 Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor
(SeaWiFS)
Optical Scanner
(Passive Sensor)
OB.DAAC
OrbView-2 was also known as SeaStar - a commercial Earth observation satellite, operating SeaWiFS for NASA. Provided quantitative data on global ocean bio-optical properties. Collected data between August 1997 and February 2011.
Radar Satellite (RADARSAT) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Radar (Active Sensor) ASF DAAC Radar Satellite (RADARSAT) is a radar satellite featuring variable resolution, and different view angles at a number of preset positions. RADARSAT collects data on resource management, ice, ocean and environmental monitoring and Arctic and off-shore surveillance. RADARSAT also supports fishing, shipping, oil exploration, offshore drilling and ocean research. The RADARSAT provides complete global coverage with the flexibility to support specific requirements.
Seasat 1 Seasat-A satellite scatterometer (SASS) Radar Scatterometer (Active Sensor) PO.DAAC A microwave scatterometer was used to determine the vector wind over the world's oceans. The technique is based on the sensitivity of microwave radar backscatter to the centimeter length ocean waves created by the action of the surface wind.
Seasat 1 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer
(SMMR)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
PO.DAAC
First Earth-orbiting satellite designed for remote sensing of the Earth's oceans and carried the first spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Collected data on sea-surface winds, sea-surface temperatures, wave heights, internal waves, atmospheric water, sea ice features and ocean topography. Launched in June 1978 and operated until October 1978.
Space Transport System (STS) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) Radar
(Active Sensor)
LP DAAC
High-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) topographic data.
Space Laboratory Series (STS-45) First Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-1) Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The First Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science. ATLAS 1 flew aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-45 in spring 1992. It was the first of up to nine ATLAS missions that were undertaken throughout one solar cycle, which lasted 11 years.
Space Laboratory Series (STS-56) Second Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-2) Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The purpose of the SBUV instrument is to measure the Solar irradiance and Earth radiance in the near ultraviolet spectrum.
Space Laboratory Series (STS-66) Third Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-3) Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) Spectrometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
The Third Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science. ATLAS 3 focused on atmospheric and solar physics and consisted of the same experiments as in ATLAS-2 with the addition of two co-manifested experiments.
Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS)
TIROS Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS) Sounder (Passive Sensor) GES DISC An atmospheric sounding system (TOVS - TIROS Operational Vertical Sounder) to provide vertical profiles of temperature and water vapor from the Earth's surface tothe top of the atmosphere; and a solar protonmonitor to detect the arrival of energetic particles for use in solar storm prediction.
TOPEX/Poseidon TOPEX Microwave Radiometer (TMR) Radiometer (Passive Sensor) PO.DAAC

TMR is a 3-frequency radiometer flown on the TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P) satellite in low Earth orbit. It operates at 18, 21, and 37 GHz in a nadir only viewing direction which is co-aligned with the T/P radar altimeters. TMR monitors and corrects for the propagation path delay of the altimeter radar signal due to water vapor and non-precipitating liquid water in the atmosphere.

TOPEX/ Poseidon Dual-Frequency Altimeter
(ALT-A, B)
Radar Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Objectives were to measure the satellite-to-sea-surface height, wave height, provide ionospheric corrections, and measure wind speed directly beneath the spacecraft. Mission ended in January 2006.
TOPEX/ Poseidon Single-Frequency Poseidon Altimeter (SSALT) Altimeter
(Active Sensor)
PO.DAAC
Monitored global ocean circulation, improved global climate predictions, and tracked El Niño conditions and ocean eddies. Mission ended in January 2006.
Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer-Earth Probe (TOMS-EP) Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC The Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, launched in July 1996 onboard an Earth Probe Satellite (TOMS/EP), continues NASA's long-term daily mapping of the global distribution of the Earth's atmospheric ozone. In addition to ozone, TOMS measures sulfur dioxide released in volcanic eruptions.
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
(TRMM)
Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System
(CERES)
Broadband Scanning Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
ASDC DAAC
Has four to six channels (shortwave, longwave, total). Measures atmospheric and surface energy fluxes. Provides 20 km resolution at nadir.
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) Imager (Passive Sensor) GHRC DAAC Detects intra-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning, day and night.
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
(TRMM)

TRMM Microwave Imager
(TMI)
Multispectral Microwave Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC,
GHRC DAAC
TMI measures the intensity of radiation at five separate frequencies: 10.7, 19.4, 21.3, 37, 85.5 GHz. TMI measures microwave brightness temperatures, water vapor, cloud water, and rainfall intensity.
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) Phased-Array Radar (Active Sensor) GES DISC Measures 3-D distribution of rain and ice. Provides horizontal resolution of 250 m and vertical resolution of 5 km.
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
(TRMM)

Visible and Infrared Scanner
(VIRS)
Radiometer
(Passive Sensor)
GES DISC
VIRS is one of the three instruments in the rain-measuring package and serves as a very indirect indicator of rainfall. It also ties in TRMM measurements with other measurements that are made routinely using the meteorological Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites POES) and those that are made using the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) operated by the United States.
Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor (ACRIM) Total Power Radiometer (Passive Sensor) ASDC DAAC Measures total solar irradiance. It has a wide range of potential applications. In metrology, for example, total power radiometers are used for primary-level microwave noise measurements. Standard, ambient, and unknown noise sources are connected to the radiometer input, and the respective output powers are measured.
Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Cryogenic Limb Array Etalon Spectrometer (CLAES) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

UARS measured ozone and chemical compounds found in the ozone layer which affect ozone chemistry and processes. UARS also measured winds and temperatures in the stratosphere as well as the energy input from the Sun. Together, these help define the role of the upper atmosphere in climate and climate variability.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) Solar Occultation (Passive Sensor) GES DISC Aimed at better understanding the coupled chemistry, dynamics, and energetics of the Earth's middle and upper atmosphere, HALOE was selected to fly on UARS supported by the NASA Mission to Planet Earth program. HALOE is a collaboration among the Langley Research Center; Max Planck Institute for Chemistry; University of Chicago; University of Michigan; University of California, Irvine; NOAA/Environmental Research Laboratory; and Imperial College, U. K.
Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Improved Stratospheric and Mesospheric Sounder (ISAMS) Sounder (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

ISAMS is a limb-sounding radiometer which uses a combination of pressure modulated and wide-band infrared channels to measure Carbon Monoxide, Water Vapour, Nitrogen Dioxide, Nitric Acid, Ozone, Nitric Oxide, Nitrous Oxide, Methane, Dinitrogen Pentoxide, Aerosol, and Temperature in the middle atmosphere.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) Sounder (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

The Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) experiments obtain measurements of atmospheric composition, temperature, and pressure by observations of millimeter- and submillimeter-wavelength thermal emission as then instrument field of view is scanned through the atmospheric limb.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Particle Environment Monitor (PEM) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

The overall objective of the particle environment monitor (PEM) is to provide comprehensive measurements of both local and global energy inputs into the Earth's atmosphere by charged particles and Joule dissipation using a carefully integrated set of instruments.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Solar-Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

Solar radiation below 300nm is completely absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and becomes the dominant direct energy input. This energy establishes the composition, temperature and dynamics. Even small changes have an important impact on atmospheric processes and trends. Therefore SOLSTICE’s goals were to make daily measurements of the solar ultraviolet irradiance (120nm–420nm with λ / Δλ ≈ 1000), the measurement should have an absolute accuracy better than ±5%, and the measurement should have a relative accuracy better than 1%, and measure solar variations on all time scales.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Solar Ultraviolet Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SUSIM) Spectrometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

The Solar Ultraviolet Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SUSIM) is a dual dispersion spectrometer instrument which measures from near-Earth orbit the absolute irradiance of the sun in the ultraviolet (UV) wavelength range of 115 nm to 410 nm.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) High Resolution Doppler Imager (HRDI) Imager (Passive Sensor) GES DISC Passive spectrometer that measures doppler shifts of spectral lines to get wind speeds.
Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) Wind Imaging Interferometer (WINDII) Interferometer (Passive Sensor) GES DISC

WINDII measures wind, temperature, and emission rate over the altitude range 80 to 300 km by using the visible region airglow emission from these altitudes as a target and employing optical Doppler interferometry to measure the small wavelength shifts of the narrow atomic and molecular airglow emission lines induced by the bulk velocity of the atmosphere carrying the emitting species.

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