Satellite Design

The Aura spacecraft is based on a modular, standardised AB1200 bus design with common subsystems. Aura is three-axis stabilised.

Aura Technical Specifications
Mass 1767 kg
Dimensions 4.71 m x 17 m x 6.85 m (deployed)
Design lifetime Six years

Mission Operations

The Aura spacecraft orbits at 705 km in a sun-synchronous orbit (98° inclination) with a 13:45 (±15 minute) equator crossing time.

Data taken by the satellite instruments are stored on board until broadcast to a downlink facility through the spacecraft's high speed data link. Because polar orbiting satellites frequently pass over the Arctic and Antarctic, the data downlink facilities are located at high latitudes. Once the data are received at the downlink facility, they are sent via optical fibre network to processing facilities at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The raw data are then distributed to the instrument teams for processing into geophysical measurements. Processed data are sent to NASA Data Active Archive Centers, where they are made available to users.

The Aura satellite also has direct broadcast capability through a smaller downlink antenna. This capability allows an investigator to receive data nearly instantly. The Finnish direct broadcast station receives OMI data as the satellite passes overhead. The direct broadcast data are processed at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and distributed shortly after the Aura overpass.

NASA's major downlink facilities are Poker Flat in Alaska, McMurdo Base in Antarctica and Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Related Links

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