Airbus EarthCARE Satellite is Transported to Launch Site

An Antonov transport takes off with Airbus EarthCARE satellite.
Photo Credit: Airbus
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read

The Airbus-built EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer) spacecraft has left Munich, Germany aboard an Antonov aircraft to its launch site in Vandenberg, California. EarthCARE is planned to be launched in May on a Falcon 9 rocket. 

Europe’s most advanced Earth observation satellite, EarthCARE, has begun its journey to launch.

After construction in Munich, Germany, EarthCARE headed for its liftoff point in Vandenberg, California over the weekend.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are collaborating to launch this mission in May on a Falcon 9 rocket.

Understanding Our Changing Climate

EarthCARE sets out to answer a critical question in climate science: How exactly do clouds and aerosols affect Earth’s energy balance?

These tiny atmospheric particles significantly impact how our planet heats and cools, but their influence remains uncertain.

By providing highly detailed measurements, EarthCARE will revolutionize our understanding of these climate factors.

A Global Effort

This complex mission involved a team of experts from over 15 European nations, Japan, and Canada. As Marc Steckling, Head of Earth Observation at Airbus, highlights:

“EarthCARE will fill crucial gaps in our knowledge. It offers unprecedented data for meteorologists and climatologists to analyze how energy flows within our atmosphere.”

Peering into the Atmosphere

EarthCARE will investigate how clouds and aerosols affect Earth’s energy balance in two ways. It will observe how they reflect sunlight back into space and how they trap infrared radiation emitted from Earth’s surface.

This comprehensive data will be used to create vertical profiles of aerosols, track the movement of water droplets and ice crystals within clouds. This will ultimately improve climate modeling and weather forecasting.

Unveiling the Secrets of Clouds

200 research institutions worldwide currently back Earthcare. Scientists will leverage this data to refine models that predict cloud formation, behavior, composition, and interaction with aerosols.

By precisely measuring aerosols, EarthCARE will provide a clearer picture of Earth’s energy budget.

EarthCARE boasts a unique suite of instruments, including the atmospheric lidar ATLID. Developed by Airbus, ATLID is one of four instruments and creates detailed profiles of aerosols and thin clouds.

This mission further establishes Airbus as a global leader in spaceborne lidar technology.

Alongside ATLID, EarthCARE carries a Broad-Band Radiometer from ESA, a Multi-Spectral Imager built by Airbus subsidiary SSTL, and a Cloud Profiling Radar from JAXA.

This powerful combination allows scientists, for the first time, to directly assess the impact of clouds and aerosols on Earth’s radiation budget using a single, integrated system.

This will significantly reduce current uncertainties in our climate models.

EarthCARE’s Journey Begins

The 2-ton satellite will orbit Earth in a sun-synchronous polar orbit at 400 km altitude, crossing the equator in the early afternoon for optimal sunlight conditions.

Airbus Defence and Space in Germany served as the mission’s prime contractor, with their French division contributing the innovative ATLID instrument.

EarthCARE’s launch marks a significant step forward in our quest to understand climate change.

This international mission holds immense potential to improve climate modeling and weather forecasting, ultimately benefiting people worldwide.


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Airbus EarthCARE satellite, which will study the atmospheric effect of clouds and aerosols, has made its way to Vandenburg launch site aboard an Antonov transport.
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