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Aqua Mission: Information About The Water on Our Planet

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Aqua is Latin for water. The mission is known for collecting data about the Earth’s water cycle. The mission records information about the evaporation from the bodies of water, water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds, precipitation, soil moisture, and the types of ice. The satellite has 6 different Earth-observing stations onboard making it unique compared to the other Nasa missions. Mission Aqua was launched on May 4, 2002, and has been continuing to collect data ever since. Aqua originally had a 6-year design life making and now it’s exceeding expectations. The average data rate per day for the Aqua mission is 89 gigabytes.


The mission entails important information about Aqua. Aqua is one of the main reasons for our discoveries related to water. As we all know water is important for life on Earth. The mission implies the following what it’s about, what were the limits and restrictions, and who or what benefited. The mission is important in solving global issues such as greenhouse gases warming up our atmosphere.

Mission Subject

The mission focuses on mostly the hydrosphere and a little bit of the lithosphere. The mission is centered around the element water. Aqua collects data about the Earth’s water cycle. The mission was being conducted because we needed it to collect useful information about the precipitation, evaporation, and the water cycle. One of the main science objectives that are being studied is water vapor. The reason this is being studied is that water vapor is a key component of greenhouse gases that affects global warming.

Mission Type

The mission platform that was chosen was a space-borne mission platform. For the aqua mission, the Earth needed to be observed. The Earth needed to be observed from the north pole to the south pole. Mission aqua needed to collect specific information about the atmosphere such as improved temperatures. Aqua needed to collect humidity measurements which would lead to improved weather forecasts.

Mission benefits One benefit that was anticipated was an improvement in weather forecasting resulting from the atmospheric and water vapor profiles. The Aqua satellite was built by Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman is likely to benefit because of its partnership with Nasa. They will use it to fulfill the people’s needs and solve climate issues. The stakeholders were the president, congress, other federal agencies, and the National research council. They used the research to address the climate’s challenges and to find solutions to these problems.

Mission Duration

The mission duration was supposed to be 6 years. However, the mission lasted longer than expected. Aqua’s sensors were in synergy with each other. As a result, these sensors were able to collect accurate data. The sensors collected specific information about the climate, environment, and how it’s expected to change. The timeline: aqua spacecraft launched on May 4, 2002, May 12, 2002, ASMU begins sending data, May 14, 2002

HSB begins sending data, on May 15-23, 2002 AMSR-E rotation rate is increased, on May 23, 2002.

MODIS instrument begins outgassing, May 24, 2002, AMSR-E begins sending data and anomalies are seen, May 25, 2002, AIRS scanner is operational, May 29, 2002 AIRS shield is deployed, Late May-early June 2002 two CERES instruments are being checked out through all modes of operation prior to opening contamination covers in June, June 1, 2002 adjustment is made to the automatic gain control for AMSR-E, June 12, 2002 AIRS is now in standard data collection mode and is doing good, June 17, 2002, Aqua reaches its final operation altitude of 705 km, June 18, 2002, CERES cover is opened to collect data, June 24, 2002, first light images from the AMSR-E are released, July 12, 2002, the direct aqua broadcast is started, July 19, 2002, the Aqua spacecraft moves away from Earth in order to allow calibration to MODIS instrument,

September 1, 2002, 120 checkout day period for Aqua ends. This is just the general timeline for the year 2002.

Mission Elements 

The bus that helps operate the payload is EOS PM-1 which is a satellite that is used to orbit the Earth. The instruments that conduct the mission: AMSR/E- Advanced Microwave Scanning, MODIS- moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer, AMSU- advanced microwave sounding unit, AIRS- atmospheric infrared sounder, HSB- humidity sounder for Brazil, and CERES- clouds and the earth’s radiant energy system. The limitations were volume, mass, power, and the adaptation of laboratory instruments that drives technology. The capabilities that the measurements had was it used advanced cosmo chemistry which has improved science and technology. A fun fact would be that the instruments would be environmentally tested before being sent out to space.

Mission Orbits/Altitude

The orbit for the aqua mission was the medium-earth orbit. The specific orbit was Synchronous to the sun. The max altitude that was reached was 705 km which approached the poles but did not pass them. Aqua’s altitude of 705km was chosen because of its need to get full coverage of the Earth specifically water-related elements.

Mission Constraints 

The mission limits were the amount of fuel to be used and the timeline for it, battery life, and cost. The satellite itself cost 952 million US dollars. The proposed mission cost was $28 million per year. The mission was expected to last 6 years but lasted more than that. Aqua was scheduled to launch on May 4, 2002. 6 weeks in orbit Aqua and its instruments end up being halfway through their checkout period. The performance of the spacecraft and the instruments are well. The images provided by the aircraft and instruments are of high quality.


In determination, the aqua mission is currently successful. The aqua mission is about finding important information about the water on our planet. The data is used for predicting future climate. It is also used for helping us with what we should do to prevent weather-related issues in the future. The mission assumes the following: what the mission is about, what was done to conduct the mission, and what were the restrictions.


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  7. EOS-PM 1 (Aqua). (n.d.). Retrieved from
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  9. NASA’s Aqua Satellite, Built by Northrop Grumman, Celebrates 10th Year On-Orbit. (n.d.). Retrieved from northrop-grumman-celebrates-10th-year-on-orbit
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  13. Zou, C.-Z., Goldberg, M. D., & Hao, X. (2018, October 1). New generation of U.S. satellite microwave sounder achieves high radiometric stability performance for reliable climate change detection. Retrieved from

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