Introduction

NASA's Earth Observing System Program began in the late 1980s with the selection of a large number of Earth science instruments and interdisciplinary science teams. The present EOS compliment of satellites consists of three core platforms, Terra, Aqua and AURA and several smaller satellites such as SORCE and ICESAT. Terra, launched in late 1999, focuses on land processes. Aqua, launched in 2002, focuses on the hydrological cycle. Aura, whose focus is atmospheric composition, was launched July 15,2004 into an ascending node 705 km sun-synchronous polar orbit with a 98° inclination with an equator-crossing time of 13:45. Aura flies in formation about 15 minutes behind Aqua. The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder

Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) and Cloudsat, that were launched together in the

Summer of 2006, fly a few minutes behind Aqua. This group of satellites, including the CNES PARASOL satellite, launched in December 2004, and the ESSP Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), scheduled for launch in 2008, are referred to as the "A-Train" The measurements from Aura will be within 30 minutes of these other

TABLE I Summary of Aura's four instruments.

Acronym Name

Instrument PI

Constituent

Instrument description

HIRDLS High

Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder

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