EarthCARE. Credits: ESA/ATG medialab

EarthCARE Satellite is Undergoing its Final Round of Tests

ESA and JAXA's EarthCARE satellite is now undergoing its final round of tests at Airbus in Germany. The launch is scheduled for May 2024

ESA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency EarthCARE satellite is now undergoing its final round of tests at Airbus in Germany.

The last checks include testing for the transmitted shock when separating from the rocket’s adapter ring.

About EarthCARE

EarthCARE (Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer), is a joint venture between ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and is expected to be launched in 2024.

Artist's view of EarthCARE. Credits: ESA/P.Carril
Artist’s view of EarthCARE. Credits: ESA/P.Carril

The EarthCARE mission is the largest and most complex Earth Explorer mission to date; it will employ high-performance lidar and radar technology to allow scientists to study the relationship between clouds, aerosols, and radiation at accuracy levels that will significantly improve our understanding of these highly variable parameters.

Clouds remain one of the biggest mysteries in our understanding of how the atmosphere drives the climate system. This mission will answer critical scientific questions related to the role that clouds and aerosols play in both reflecting incident solar radiation out to space and trapping infrared radiation emitted from Earth’s surface.


The science

The satellite will measure the 3D structure of clouds and aerosols, together with collocated observations of solar and terrestrial radiation. For this purpose, it carries four scientific instruments:

  •  The Atmospheric Lidar (ATLID) will provide vertical profiles of aerosols and thin clouds. It will operate at a wavelength of 355 nm and have a high-spectral resolution receiver and depolarization channel.
  •  The Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) will provide vertical measurements of clouds and have the capability to observe vertical velocities of cloud particles.
  • The Multi-Spectral Imager (MSI) will provide across-track information on clouds and aerosols in multiple wavelengths.
  • The Broad-Band Radiometer (BBR) will measure reflected solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation.
EarthCARE measuring clouds and aerosols. Credits: ESA/ATG medialab
EarthCARE measuring clouds and aerosols. Credits: ESA/ATG medialab

The ground segment consists of flight operations, data acquisition, archiving, and dissemination.

ESA’s Flight Operations Segment at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, will be in charge of the spacecraft, orbit control and onboard software maintenance.

ESA’s Payload Data Ground Segment is at ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation (ESRIN) in Frascati, Italy, and will be responsible for science data acquisition, processing, and archiving. It will also handle data exchange with the JAXA ground segment. JAXA‘s ground segment will process the Cloud Profiling Radar data.

EarthCARE will orbit Earth at an altitude of around 393 km. The altitude needs to be as low as possible to optimize the use of the lidar and radar, but not too low where atmospheric drag would impact fuel consumption and the life of the mission.

The satellite is scheduled to be packed up and shipped to the Vandenberg launch site in California in early March 2024, where it will be prepared for liftoff on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in May.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket con the launch pad. Credits: SpaceX
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket con the launch pad. Credits: SpaceX
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Benedetta Facini

Benedetta Facini

Italian physics student and aspiring astronaut.
I talk about space and astronauts on social media

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