CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Observations)

CALIPSO in orbit, artist impression

CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Observations) is a Franco-American satellite, previously known as PICASSO-CENA, that carries a collection of spectral imaging instruments to measure chemical components of Earth's atmosphere, as well as a lidar system to track airborne water vapor particles. It flies in formation with the CloudSat, PARASOL, Aqua, and Aura satellites, which will also study atmospheric and oceanic processes, thus enabling a pooling of data.


CALIPSO is a collaborative project led by the Langley Research Center that involves CNES (the French space agency), Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Hampton University (Virginia), and the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace. It was the third selected mission in NASA's ESSP (Earth System Science Pathfinder) mission, although it is no longer an ESSP mission. Following delays, it was launched into a 705-kilometer-high orbit, on the same Delta rocket as CloudSat, from Vandenberg Air Force Base on April 28, 2006.