EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer) is the sixth Earth Explorer mission to be launched by ESA as part of its ‘Living Planet’ programme. As industrial prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for the development and manufacture of the Earth observation satellite.
EarthCARE will focus on clouds, tiny particles in the atmosphere – aerosols – and their influence on atmospheric radiation. Among other things, EarthCARE will draw up vertical profiles of natural and man-made aerosols, register the distribution of water and ice and their transport by clouds, and investigate the interrelationships between clouds and precipitation and their effects on radiation. It will be possible to derive profiles of atmospheric heating and cooling by clouds from a combination of the measured aerosols and ‘cloud elements’.
EarthCARE will thus contribute to a better understanding of our climate and deliver valuable data for climate research and meteorological digital forecasting models. Weighing around 1.7 metric tons, the satellite is scheduled to be launched in 2013. EarthCARE will spend three years taking measurements from a polar orbit (97° inclination) at an altitude of about 400 kilometres.
Airbus Defence and Space Germany is responsible for the industrial management of EarthCARE and the integration and test activities. Airbus Defence and Space UK is supplying the satellite platform. The satellite is equipped with four instruments, two passive and two active sensors that will supply a unique data package with only one satellite mission. Airbus Defence and Space France is supplying the active laser instrument ATLID, and the Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd is supplying the Multi-Spectral Imager MSI.