With the launch of the EarthCare satellite , one of the most complex and ambitious missions in the history of Earth observation begins : with its four cutting-edge instruments, the mission born from the collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency Jaxa will study clouds and aerosols to discover the mechanisms underlying climate change .

“Clouds, aerosols and radiation will soon be understood much more clearly, as a unique mix of four instruments on board EarthCare work to resolve some of the most mysterious aspects of our atmosphere,” ESA Director General wrote on Platform , Josef Aschbacher.

Designed and built by a consortium of over 75 companies with Airbus as prime contractor , the mission has an important contribution from the Italian Space Agency and our country's industry, with Leonardo . The latter created components for two of the four on-board instruments , as well as the solar panels and a special sensor to orient the satellite if necessary.

After the successful launch from the Californian base of Vandenberg with a Falcon 9 rocket, the satellite duly separated from the rocket and about an hour later the Hartebeesthoek Earth station, in South Africa, received the signal indicating that EarthCare had entered its intended orbit, approximately 400 kilometers above the Earth's surface.

Thus begins a mission full of promise, at a time when the pressure of climate change becomes particularly important.

Acronym for Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer, the mission has the task of detecting measurements possible only from space, such as those on the role that clouds and aerosols play in heating and cooling the Earth's atmosphere.

Faithful to Japanese tradition, Jaxa has already found a nickname for the satellite: "Hakuryu", which means "White Dragon" due to the satellite's appearance, with its white body and solar panel resembling a long tail.

“The mission comes at a critical time when advancing our scientific knowledge is more important than ever to understand and act on climate change, and we can't wait to receive the first data,” observed Simonetta Cheli, director of the ESA Earth Observation programs. “Increasing the accuracy of global climate models using EarthCARE data will allow us to better predict the future climate and therefore adopt the necessary mitigation measures,” said Eiichi Tomita, the scientific manager of the Jaxa radar which will measure the speed of the ascending and descending flow within the clouds. It is the first instrument in the world capable of detecting a similar measurement.

Another important tool is atmospheric lidar, which uses a laser to measure the profiles of thin clouds and aerosols; the multispectral imager offers a broad overview of the scene in different wavelengths, while the broadband radiometer directly measures reflected solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation.


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