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CloudSat satellite completes 17-year weather research mission
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CloudSat satellite completes 17-year weather research mission
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 24, 2024

The CloudSat satellite, developed by BAE Systems, has concluded its operations after an extensive 17-year journey in space. Initially launched in April 2006 as a component of a NASA initiative, CloudSat was pivotal in assembling comprehensive global cloud profiles. This endeavor aimed at enhancing understanding of cloud properties influenced by water and ice content, precipitation processes, and the overall climatic effects of clouds.

The satellite has been instrumental in refining weather forecasting models and bolstering predictive abilities, contributing to a multitude of scientific studies. BAE Systems was responsible for the construction of the spacecraft bus, while NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided the primary instrument, the Cloud Profiling Radar.

CloudSat's mission was significantly extended beyond its projected 22 months due to the dedicated operational support from BAE Systems, particularly after overcoming challenges such as battery and reaction wheel failures. This collaborative effort ensured the satellite's prolonged functionality, allowing it to continue gathering valuable data well beyond its expected lifespan.

The Cloud-Aerosol LIDAR and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite, which launched alongside CloudSat and featured BAE Systems-developed LIDAR and camera instruments, also contributed to the studies of atmospheric cloud and aerosol impacts until its mission ended in August 2023.

Don Speranzini, Vice President and General Manager at BAE Systems Space and Mission Systems, highlighted the mission's success. "The deorbiting of CloudSat marks the conclusion of a mission that has significantly advanced our understanding of environmental interactions involving clouds," he stated. "The extended service life of the satellite is a testament to the exceptional skills and innovative solutions provided by our team."

CloudSat ceased scientific operations in December 2023. Following this phase, the satellite underwent passivation, which included depleting its residual energy and repositioning its solar arrays to prevent reactivation. It is currently transitioning to a disposal orbit, where it will ultimately disintegrate upon re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

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