BAE-built CloudSat Satellite Completes Nearly Two Decades-lo
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This news is classified in: Aerospace Communications Space

Apr 23, 2024

BAE-built CloudSat Satellite Completes Nearly Two Decades-long Mission

  • The NASA mission provided data on cloud profiles and physical properties to enhance weather prediction models

The BAE Systems-built CloudSat satellite has officially ended operations after more than 17 years on orbit. CloudSat launched in April 2006 as part of a NASA-led mission to develop global cloud profiles to better understand how water and ice content determine cloud properties, the processes behind precipitation, and how clouds impact the climate. It has since served as a valuable tool for the scientific community to validate and advance weather forecast modeling and predictive capabilities, and it has helped inform hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers.

BAE Systems designed and built the spacecraft bus for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed the Cloud Profiling Radar that served as CloudSat’s sole instrument. The satellite launched jointly and flew in formation with the Cloud-Aerosol LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite, which utilizes BAE Systems-built LIDAR and wide-field camera instruments to further study climate impacts of clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere. The CALIPSO mission formally ended on August 1, 2023.

CloudSat was originally planned for a 22-month mission lifetime, but it was able to continue providing measurements for nearly 18 years in large part due to operational support efforts from the BAE Systems team, which modified spacecraft operations to deal with battery and reaction wheel failures that occurred over the years.

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“The deorbiting of CloudSat brings an end to a long and valuable mission that helped the scientific community develop a more robust understanding of clouds and how they interact with the rest of our environment,” said Don Speranzini, vice president and general manager of Ground Systems and Services for BAE Systems Space & Mission Systems. “The fact that the satellite was able to provide meaningful data so long after its original design life is a testament to both our team’s craftsmanship and operational innovations that kept the mission running as long as possible.”

CloudSat officially ended scientific operations in December 2023. In the months following, the satellite went through the passivation process — depleting its remaining energy and adjusting its solar arrays so it can no longer be activated — and was progressively lowered to disposal orbit where it will eventually burn up safely in the Earth’s atmosphere.



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