Aqua's science objectives and mission goals
Posted: May 1, 2002

Illustration of Aqua in orbit. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

Earth is a complex and interrelated system of land surface, solid Earth, biosphere, atmosphere and oceans. A change in one element of the Earth's system affects other elements of the Earth's system. However, scientists do not yet fully understand the cause-and-effect relationships well enough to predict what, if any, impacts these changes will have on future climate conditions. The unique vantage point from space is critical for understanding these large-scale systems if we are to better understand and protect our home planet.

Aqua will focus on collecting data for the improved characterization and understanding of atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles, clouds, global precipitation and Earth's thermal radiation balance; terrestrial snow and sea ice; sea surface temperature and ocean productivity; and soil moisture. Data collected by Aqua will make critical contributions to the monitoring of terrestrial and marine ecosystem dynamics and will be used by operational agencies to improve weather prediction.

Aqua will seek to answer the following science questions:
1. How are global precipitation, evaporation, and the cycling of water changing?

2. How is the global ocean circulation varying on inter-annual, decadal, and longer time scales?

3. How are global ecosystems changing?

4. What are the effects of clouds and surface hydrologic processes on Earth's climate?

5. How do ecosystems respond to and affect global environmental change and the carbon cycle?

Aqua's mission goals include:
1. Obtaining vertical temperature and moisture profiles of the Earth's troposphere with higher accuracy than those made with any previous NASA satellite sensor.

2. Extending rainfall characterization to the extra tropics in concert with NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite measurements.

3. Producing daily global sea surface temperature maps with higher measurement accuracy than any previous NASA satellite sensor.

4. Producing global soil moisture distribution records for regions with little vegetation that are consistent with the large footprint of the Aqua sensors.

5. Producing additional seasonal/annual cycles of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and atmospheric and cloud properties by augmenting NASA's Terra satellite measurements.

6. Producing additional seasonal/annual Earth radiation budget records by augmenting NASA's Terra satellite measurements.

7. Producing higher spectral resolution global infrared data of the Earth than prior NASA spaceborne measurements.

Flight Data File
Vehicle: Delta 2 (7920-10L)
Payload: Aqua
Launch date: May 4, 2002
Launch time: 0954:58-1004:58 GMT (5:54:58-6:04:58 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-2W, Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Satellite broadcast: GE-2, Transponder 9, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Orbit trace - Maps showing the ground track for the launch.

Aqua - General overview of this NASA spacecraft.

Satellite instruments - Description of each of the six instruments on Aqua.

Delta 2 rocket - Overview of the Delta 2 7920-model rocket used in this launch.

SLC-2W - The launch pad where Delta rockets fly from Vandenberg.

Delta directory - See our coverage of preview Delta rocket flights.