Minimize Aura

Aura Mission (EOS/Chem-1)

Aura (formerly EOS/Chem-1) is the chemistry mission of NASA with the overall objective to study the chemistry and dynamics of Earth's atmosphere from the ground through the mesosphere. The goal is to monitor the complex interactions of atmospheric constituents from both natural sources, such as biological activity and volcanoes, and man-made sources, such as biomass burning, are contributing to global change and effect the creation and depletion of ozone. The Aura mission will provide global surveys of several atmospheric constituents which can be classified into anthropogenic sources (CFC types), radicals (e.g., ClO, NO, OH), reservoirs (e.g., HNO, HCl), and tracers (e.g., N2O, CO2, H2O). Temperature, geopotential heights, and aerosol fields will also be mapped. 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

In many ways, Aura is a follow-on to the very successful UARS (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) mission of NASA. UARS made stratospheric constituent measurements from 1991-2005. Unlike UARS, however, Aura is designed to focus on the lower stratosphere and the troposphere.


Figure 1: Artist's rendition of the Aura spacecraft )image credit: NGST)


The Aura spacecraft, like Aqua, is based on TRW's modular, standardized AB1200 bus design with common subsystems. [Note: As of Dec. 2002, TRW was purchased by NGST (Northrop Grumman Space Technology) of Redondo Beach, CA]. The S/C dimensions are: 2.68 m x 2.34 m x 6.85 m (stowed) and 4.71 m x 17.03 m x 6.85 m (deployed). Aura is three-axis stabilized, with a total mass of 2,967 kg at launch, S/C mass of 1,767 kg, payload mass =1,200 kg. The S/C design life is six years. 6)


Figure 2: Illustration of the Aura spacecraft (image credit: NGST)

The spacecraft structure is a lightweight 'eggcrate' compartment construction made of graphite epoxy composite over honeycomb core, providing a strong but light base for the science instruments (referred to as T330 EOS common spacecraft design). A deployable flat-panel solar array with over 20,000 silicon solar cells provides 4.6 kW of power.

Spacecraft attitude is maintained by stellar-inertial, and momentum wheel-based attitude controls with magnetic momentum unloading, through interaction with the magnetic field of the Earth that provide accurate pointing for the instruments. Typical pointing knowledge of the line of sight of the instruments to the Earth is on the order of one arcminute (about 0.02º).

A propulsion system of four small-thrust hydrazine monopropellant thrusters gives the spacecraft a capability to adjust its orbit periodically to compensate for the effects of atmospheric drag, so that the orbit can be precisely controlled to maintain altitude and the assigned ground track.


Figure 3: Alternate view of the Aura spacecraft (image credit: NASA)


Launch: A launch of Aura on a Delta-2 7920 vehicle from VAFB, CA, took place on July 15, 2004.

Orbit: Sun-synchronous circular orbit, altitude = 705 km, inclination = 98.7º, with a local equator crossing time of 13.45 (1:45 PM) on the ascending node. Repeat cycle of 16 days.

RF communications: Onboard storage capacity of 100 Gbit of payload data. The payload data are downlinked in X-band. The spacecraft can also broadcast scientific data directly to ground stations over which it is passing. The ground stations also have an S-band uplink capability for spacecraft and science instrument operations. The S-band communication subsystem also can communicate through NASA's TDRSS synchronous satellites in order to periodically track the spacecraft, calculate the orbit precisely, and issue commands to adjust the orbit to maintain it within defined limits.



Mission status:

• The Aura spacecraft and three of its four instruments are operating nominally in 2014.

• December 2013: Introduction of a new algorithm for the OMI instrument to improve measurements of SO2 from space. 7) 8)

Sulfur dioxide (SO2), emitted from both man-made and volcanic activities, significantly impact air quality and climate. Advanced sensors including OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) flying on NASA's Aura spacecraft have been employed to measure SO2 pollution. This however, remains a challenging problem owing to relatively weak signals from most anthropogenic sources and various interferences such as ozone absorption and stray light.

The project has developed a fundamentally different approach for retrieving SO2 from satellites. Unlike existing methods that attempt to model different interferences, we directly extract characteristic features from satellite radiance data to account for them, using a principal component analysis technique. This proves to be a computationally efficient way to use hundreds of wavelengths available from OMI, and greatly decreases modeling errors.

The new approach has the following features:

- 50% noise reduction compared with the operational OMI algorithm.

- Reduction of unrealistic features in the operational product.

- Computation efficiency (10 times faster than comparable methods relying on online radiative transfer calculation).

- Applicability to many instruments such as GOME-2 and the Suomi National Polar Partnership (NPP) Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS).

This new algorithm will significantly improve the SO2 data quality from the OMI mission. Once applied to other sensors, it will enable the production of consistent long-term global SO2 records essential for climate and air quality studies.


Figure 4: Monthly mean SO2 maps over the Eastern U.S. for August 2006 generated using (a) the new algorithm and (b) the operational algorithm (image credit: NASA/GSFC)

Legend to Figure 4: The circles represent large SO2 sources (e.g., coal-fired power plants) that emit more than 70,000 tons of SO2 annually. The colors represent the amount of SO2 in the atmospheric column above the surface in Dobson Unit (DU). 1 DU means 2.69 x 1016 SO2 molecules above a surface of 1 cm2 . Because the SO2 signals from anthropogenic sources are relatively weak, small errors in the estimated interferences (e.g., ozone absorption) may lead to substantial biases in the retrieved SO2. Negative values can arise when, for example, the contribution from ozone absorption in the SO2 spectral window is only slightly overestimated. As shown above, the negative retrieval biases become much smaller in the new algorithm.

Relevance for future science and NASA missions: The new algorithm has been proposed to reprocess data from the Aura OMI mission. It can be applied to Suomi-NPP and future JPSS OMPS instruments to ensure SO2 data continuity from the EOS era. It can also help extend satellite SO2 data records if applied to other current and future NASA and European missions such as TEMPO, GEO-CAPE, TROPOMI and GOME-2. TEMPO is the first selected NASA EVI (Earth Venture Instrument) and will be launched on a geostationary platform near the end of the decade (Ref. 7).

• June 2013: The 2013 Senior Review evaluated 13 NASA satellite missions in extended operations: ACRIMSAT, Aqua, Aura, CALIPSO, CloudSat, EO-1, GRACE, Jason-1, OSTM, QuikSCAT, SORCE, Terra, and TRMM. The Senior Review was tasked with reviewing proposals submitted by each mission team for extended operations and funding for FY14-FY15, and FY16-FY17. Since CloudSat, GRACE, QuikSCAT and SORCE have shown evidence of aging issues, they received baseline funding for extension through 2015. 9)

- The satellite is in excellent health. The Aura MLS, OMI and TES instruments are showing signs of aging, but are still producing science data of excellent quality, and there is an excellent chance of extending measurements beyond the current proposal cycle. The data are highly utilized in the research and operational communities.

- The reasons for extending the Aura mission include: (1) to allow current scientific and applied benefits to continue; (2) to increase the value of the Aura data for climate studies through increasing the length of the Aura data sets; (3) to allow continued collection of data that are unique since the loss of the European Envisat satellite; and (4) to continue to generate synergistic products by combining different Aura and measurements from other A-Train satellite missions.

• The Aura spacecraft and two of its four instruments (MLS and OMI) are operating nominally in 2013. The TES (Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer) instrument continues to make special observations in targeted regions, but no longer makes global measurements. A moving part of TES is suffering from lubricant degradation. 10)

• The Aura spacecraft and three of its four instruments are operating nominally in 2011.

• The Aura spacecraft and three of its four instruments are operating nominally in 2010. Aura entered its extended mission phase in October 2010 (extension until the end of 2012).

• The Aura spacecraft and three of its four instruments are operating nominally in 2009 (MLS, OMI and TES Operations are nominal while HIRDLS is collecting limited science data). 11)

• The spacecraft has been declared “operational” by NASA as of Oct. 14, 2004 (ending the commissioning phase). 12)

• Shortly after launch, the HIRDLS science team discovered, that a piece of plastic was blocking 80% of the optical instrument aperture. Engineers concluded that the plastic was torn from the inside of the instrument during the explosive outgassing on spacecraft ascent at launch. This plastic remains caught on the scan mirror despite efforts to free it. In spite of these setbacks, the HIRDLS team has shown that it can use the remaining 20% of the aperture to produce their promised data products at high vertical resolution. Unfortunately, the instrument no longer has its azimuthal scanning capability. 13) 14) 15)


Formation flight:

The Aura spacecraft is part of the so-called “A-train” (Aqua in the lead and Aura at the tail, the nominal separation between Aqua and Aura is about 15 minutes) or “afternoon constellation” (formation flight starting sometime after the Aura launch). The objective is to coordinate observations and to provide a coincident set of data on aerosol and cloud properties, radiative fluxes and atmospheric state essential for accurate quantification of aerosol and cloud radiative effects. The orbits of Aqua and CALIPSO are tied to WRS (Worldwide Reference System) and have error boxes associated with their orbits. The overall mission requirements are written such that CALIPSO is required to be no greater than 2 minutes behind Aqua. The OCO mission of NASA is a late entry into the A-train sequence. The satellites are required to control their along-track motions and remain within designated ”control boxes.” Member satellites will exchange orbital position information to maintain their orbital separations. 16) 17) 18) 19) 20)

The A-train is part of GOS (Global Observing System), an international network of platforms and instruments, to support environmental studies of global concern. A draft implementation plan for GOS, also referred to as GEOSS ((Global Earth Observation System of Systems), was approved at the fourth Earth Observation summit in Tokyo in April 28, 2004.


Figure 5: Illustration of Aura spacecraft in the A-train (image credit: NASA)

The PARASOL spacecraft of CNES (launch on Dec. 18, 2004) is part of the A-train as of February 2005. The OCO mission (launch in 2009) will be the newest member of the A-train. Once completed, the A-train will be led by OCO, followed by Aqua, then CloudSat, CALIPSO, PARASOL, and, in the rear, Aura. 21)
Note: The OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) spacecraft experienced a launch failure on Feb. 24, 2009 - hence, it is not part of the A-train.



Sensor complement: (HIRDLS, MLS, OMI, TES)

The Aura instrument package provides complementary observations from the UV to the microwave region of the EMS (Electromagnetic Spectrum) with unprecedented sensitivity and depth of coverage to the study of the Earth's atmospheric chemistry from its surface to the stratosphere. MLS is on the front of the spacecraft (the forward velocity direction) while HIRDLS, TES, and OMI are mounted on the nadir side. 22)


Figure 6: Auro atmospheric profile measurements (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 6: OMI also measures UVB flux, cloud top/cover, and column abundances of O3, NO2, BrO, aerosol and volcanic SO2. TES also measures several additional 'spectral products' such as ClONO2, CF2Cl2, CFCl3, NO2, and volcanic SO2.


Figure 7: Instrument field-of-view accommodation (image credit: NASA)


HIRDLS (High-Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder):

HIRDLS is a joint instrument between the University of Colorado at Boulder and Oxford University, Oxford, UK. PIs: J. Gille of the University of Colorado and J. Barnett, Oxford University; prime contractors are Lockheed Martin and Astrium Ltd., UK. The instrument is a mid-infrared limb-scanning spectroradiometer designed to sound the upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere emissions within the spectral range of 6 - 18 µm (21 channels). The instrument measures infrared thermal emissions from the atmosphere which are used to determine vertical profiles as functions of pressure of the temperature and concentrations of several trace species in the 8-100 km height range. The HIRDLS design is of LRIR (Nimbus-6), LIMS and SAMS (Nimbus-7), ISAMS and CLAES (UARS) heritage.

HIRDLS observes global distributions of temperature and trace gas concentrations of O3, H2O, CH4, N2O, HNO3, NO2, N2O5, CFC11, CFC12 ClONO2, and aerosols in the upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere plus water vapor, aerosol, and cloud tops. The swath width is 2000-3000 km (typically six profiles across swath). Complete Earth coverage (including polar night) can be obtained in 12 hours. High horizontal resolution is obtained with a commandable azimuth scan which, in conjunction with a rapid elevation scan, provides profiles up to 3,000 km apart in an across-track swath. Spatial resolution: standard profile spacing is 500 x 500 km horizontally (equivalent to 5º longitude x 5º latitude) x 1 km vertically; averaging volume for each data sample 1 km vertical x 10 km across x 300 km along line-of-sight. 23) 24)


Figure 8: Illustration of the HIRDLS instrument (image credit: Oxford University)

HIRDLS performs limb scans in the vertical at multiple azimuth angles, measuring infrared emissions in 21 channels (temperature distribution) ranging from 6.12 - 17.76 µm. Four channels measure the emission of CO2. Taking advantage of the known mixing ratio of CO2, the transmittance is calculated, and the equation of radiative transfer is inverted to determine the vertical distribution of the Planck black body function, from which the temperature is derived as a function of pressure. Winds and potential vorticity are determined from spatial variations of the height of geopotential surfaces. These are determined at upper levels by integrating the temperature profiles vertically from a known reference base. The HIRDLS instrument will improve knowledge in data-sparse regions by measuring the height variations of the reference surface with the aid of a gyro package. This level (near the base of the stratosphere) can also be integrated downward using nadir temperature soundings to improve tropospheric analyses. 25)

FOV (scan range): elevation from 22.1º to 27.3º below horizontal, azimuth: -21º (sun side) to +43º (anti-sun side). The instrument has 21 photoconductive HgCdTe detectors cooled to 65 K; each detector has a separate bandpass interference filter. Thermal control by paired Stirling cycle coolers, heaters, sun baffle, radiator panel; the thermal operating range is 20-30º C.





Spectral range

6-18 µm

Swath width

2000-3000 km

Scan range in elevation

22.1-27.3º below horizon

Pointing stability

30 arcsec/sec per axis

Scan range in azimuth

-21º (sun side) to +43º (anti-sun side)

Detector IFOV

1 km vertical x 10 km horizontal

Instrument mass

220 kg

Instrument size

154.5 x 113.5 x 130 cm

Data rate

65 kbit/s

Duty cycle


Instrument power

220-239 W (av. to peak)



Table 1: Overview of some HIRDLS parameters

Status 2005: The instrument is performing correctly except for a problem with radiometric views out from the main aperture. A series of tests using the (i) the in-orbit instrument, (iii) the Engineering Model, (iii) purpose-built ground rigs, has led to the conclusion that the optical beam is obstructed between the scan mirror and the entrance aperture by what is believed to be a piece of Kapton film that became detached during the ascent to orbit. This film was intended to prevent movement of contamination, but itself moved from behind the scan mirror to in front. The lines along which that film tore can only be deduced from the in-orbit behavior.

Extensive tests have been performed on the HIRDLS instrument to understand the form of the optical blockage and how it occurred. A clear picture has emerged of the geometry, and this adds to the confidence in the approach to extracting atmospheric profiles which appears to be giving good results. All other aspects of the instrument are performing as well as or better than expected and there is every reason to expect that a long series of valuable atmospheric data will be obtained. 26) 27) 28) 29)


Figure 9: Illustration of the HIRDLS instrument and its components (image credit: UCAR, Ref. 25)


Figure 10: Internal view of the HIRDLS instrument (image credit: UCAR)


MLS (Microwave Limb Sounder):

The MLS instrument is of UARS MLS heritage; PI: J. W. Waters, NASA/JPL. The instrument measures thermal emissions from the atmospheric limb in submillimeter and millimeter wavelength spectral bands and is intended for studies of the following processes and parameters: 30) 31) 32) 33) 34) 35)

• Chemistry of the lower stratosphere and upper troposphere. Measurement of lower stratospheric temperature and concentrations of: H2O, O3, ClO, BrO, HCl, OH, HO2, HNO3, and HCN, and N2O. Measurement of upper tropospheric H2O and O3 (radiative forcing on climate change).

• Chemistry of the middle and upper stratosphere. Monitoring of ozone chemistry by measuring radicals, reservoirs, and source gases in chemical cycles which destroy ozone

• The effects of volcanoes on global change. MLS measures SO2 and other gases in volcanic plumes.

Measurements are performed continuously, at all times of day and night, altitude range from the upper troposphere to the lower thermosphere. The vertical scan is chosen to emphasize the lower stratosphere and upper troposphere. Complete latitude coverage is obtained each orbit. Pressure (from O2 lines) and height (from a gyroscope measuring small changes in the FOV direction) are measured to provide accurate vertical information for the composition measurements. 36) 37) 38)

The MLS instrument consists of three modules (Figure 12):

1) GHz module: This module contains the GHz antenna system, calibration targets, switching mirror, optical multiplexer, and 118, 190, 240, and 640 GHz radiometers

2) THz module: contains the THz scan and switching mirror, calibration target, telescope, and 2.5 THz radiometers at both polarizations. Measurement of the OH emissions near 2.5 THz (119 µm).

3) Spectrometer module: that contains spectrometers, command and data handling systems, and power distribution systems.

Measurement approach: passive limb sounder; thermal emission spectra collected by offset Cassegrain scanning antenna system; Limb scan = 0 - 120 km; spatial resolution = 3 x 300 km horizontal x 1.2 km vertical. MLS contains heterodyne radiometers in five spectral bands.

Spectral bands

At millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths

Spatial resolution

Measurements are performed along the sub-orbital track, and resolution varies for different parameters; 5 km cross-track x 500 km along-track x 3 km vertical are typical values

Instrument mass, power

490 kg, 550 W (peak)

Duty cycle


Data rate

100 kbit/s

Thermal control

Via radiators and louvers to space as well as heaters

Thermal operating range



Boresight 60-70º relative to nadir
1.5 km vertical x 3 km cross-track x 300 km along-track at the limb tangent point (IFOV at 640 GHz)

Table 2: MLS instrument parameters


Figure 11: Schematic view of the MLS instrument (image credit: NASA)

FOV: boresight 60-70º relative to nadir; IFOV = ±2.5º (half-cone, along-track); spatial resolution: measurements are performed along the suborbital track; the resolution varies for different bands, at 640 GHz the spatial resolution is: 1.5 km vertical x 3 km cross-track x 300 km along-track at the limb tangent point; a typical resolution is: 3 km vertical x 5 km cross-track x 500 km along-track. Spectral bands at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. Instrument mass = 490 kg, power = 550 W; duty cycle = 100%; data rate = 100 kbit/s; thermal control via radiators and louvres to space as well as heaters; thermal operating range is 10-35ºC.

Spectral band center

Measurement objective

118 GHz

Primarily for temperature and pressure

190 GHz

Primarily for H2O, HNO3, and continuity with UARS MLS measurements

240 GHz

Primarily for O3 and CO

640 GHz

Primarily for N2O, HCl, ClO, HOCl, BrO, HO2, and SO2

2.5 THz

Primarily for OH

Table 3: MLS instrument frequency bands


Figure 12: Line drawing of the MLS instrument (image credit: NASA)


Figure 13: Signal flow block diagram of the MLS instrument (image credit: NASA)


Figure 14: The MLS GHz module antenna concept, showing Cassegrain configuration, edge tapers, and surface tolerances of the reflectors (image credit: NASA)


Figure 15: The MLS THz module optical scheme (image credit: NASA)


OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument):

The OMI instrument is a contribution of NIVR (Netherlands Institute for Air and Space Development) of Delft in collaboration with FMI (Finnish Meteorological Institute), Helsinki, Finland, to the EOS Aura mission. The PI is Pieternel F. Levelt of KNMI; co-PIs are: Gilbert W. Leppelmeier of FMI and Ernest Hilsenrath of NASA/GSFC. OMI was manufactured by Dutch Space/TNO-TPD in The Netherlands, in cooperation with Finnish subcontractors VTT and Patria Finavitec. 39) 40) 41) 42) 43) 44) 45) 46) 47) 48)

OMI is a nadir-viewing UV/VIS imaging spectrograph which measures the solar radiation backscattered by the Earth's atmosphere and surface over the entire wavelength range from 270 to 500 nm, with a spectral resolution of about 0.5 nm. The design is of GOME heritage, flown on ERS-2, as well as of SCIAMACHY and GOMOS heritage, flown on Envisat. The overall objective is to monitor ozone and other trace gases (continuation of the TOMS measurement series) and to monitor tropospheric pollutants worldwide. The OMI measurements are highly synergistic with the HIRDLS and MLS instruments on the Aura platform. The OMI observations provide the following capabilities and features:

• Mapping of ozone columns at 13 km x 24 km and profiles at 36 km x 48 km (continuation of TOMS and GOME ozone column data records and the ozone profile records of SBUV and GOME)

• Measurement of key air quality components: NO2, SO2, BrO, OClO, and aerosol (continuation of GOME measurements)

• Distinguish between aerosol types, such as smoke, dust, and sulfates

• Measurement of cloud pressure and coverage

• Mapping of the global distribution and trends in UV-B radiation

• A combination of processing algorithms is employed including TOMS version 7, DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy), Hyperspectral BUV retrievals and forward modeling to extract the various OMI data products

• Near real-time production of ozone and other trace gases.


Figure 16: The OMI instrument (image credit: KNMI)

OMI is the first of a new generation of UV-Visible spaceborne spectrometers that use two-dimensional detectors (CCD arrays). These detectors enable OMI to daily observe the entire Earth with small ground pixel size (13x24 km2 at nadir), which makes this instrument suitable for tropospheric composition research and detection of air pollution at urban scales. OMI is a wide-angle, non-scanning and nadir-viewing instrument measuring the solar backscattered irradiance in a swath of 2600 km. The telescope has a FOV of 114º. The instrument is designed as a compact UV/VIS imaging spectrograph, using a two-dimensional CCD array for simultaneous spatial and spectral registration (hyperspectral imaging in frame-transfer mode). The instrument has two channels measuring in the spectral range of 270-500 nm.

The Earth is viewed in 1500 bands in the along-track direction providing daily global coverage. OMI employs a polarization scrambler to depolarize the incoming radiance. The radiation is then focussed by the secondary telescope mirror. A dichroic element separates the radiation into a UV and a VIS channel. The UV channel is split again into two subchannels UV1 (270-314 nm) and UV2 (306-380 nm). In the UV1 subchannel, the spatial sampling distance per pixel is a factor two larger than in the UV2 subchannel. The idea is to increase the ratio between the useful signal and the dark current signal, hence, to increase SNR in UV1. The resulting IFOV values of a pixel in the cross-track direction are 6 km for UV1 and 3 km for UV2 and VIS. The corresponding spatial resolution is twice as good as the sampling distances. Groups of 4 or 8 CCD detector pixels are binned in the cross-track direction. The basic detector exposure time is 0.4 s, corresponding to an along-track distance of 2.7 km. In OMI, five subsequent CCD images are electronically co-added, resulting in a FOV of 13 km in the along-track direction. In addition, one column (wavelength) of each CCD data is downlinked without co-adding (monitoring of clouds, ground albedo). The pixel binning and image co-adding techniques are used to increase SNR and to reduce the data rate.


Figure 17: Conceptual design of the OMI instrument (image credit: KNMI)

Instrument type

Pushbroom type imaging grating spectrometer

Two UV bands, 1 visible band

UV-1: 270-314 nm
UV-2: 306-380 nm
VIS: 350-500 nm

Spectral resolution (average)

UV1: 0.42 FWHM (Full Width Half Maximum)
UV2: 0.45 nm FWHM
VIS: 0.63 nm FWHM

Spectral sampling

2-3 for FWHM

Telescope FOV

114º (providing a surface swath width of 2600 km)

IFOV (spatial resolution)

1.0º (providing 12 km x 24 km; or 36 km x 48 km (depending on the product)
Two zoom modes: 13 km x 13 km (detection of urban pollution)


CCD 2-D frame-transfer type with 780 x 576 (spectral x spatial) pixels

Instrument mass, power, data rate

65 kg, 66 W, 0.8 Mbit/s (average)

Instrument size

50 cm x 40 cm x 35 cm

Duty cycle

60 minutes on the daylight side of the orbit

Thermal control

Stirling cycle cooler, heaters, sun baffle, and radiator panel

Thermal operating range

20-30º C

Table 4: OMI instrument parameters

The CCD detector arrays are of the back-illuminated and frame-transfer type, each with 576 (rows) x 780 (columns) pixels in the image section and the same amount in the storage or readout section. The frame transfer layout allows simultaneous exposure and readout of the previous exposure. This in turn permits fair pixel readout rates (130 kHz) and good data integrity. There are two zoom modes, besides the global observation mode, for regional studies with a spatial resolution of 13 km x 13 km. In one zoom mode, the swath width is reduced to 725 km; in the other zoom mode, the spectrum is reduced to 306 - 432 nm. Cloud coverage information is retrieved with a high spatial resolution, independent of the operational mode. 49)

Instrument calibration: Daily measurements of the sun are taken with a set of reflective quartz volume diffusers (QVD) for absolute radiometric calibration. Relative radiometric calibration is performed using a WLS (White Light Source) and two LEDs per spectral (sub-) channel. The two LEDs fairly uniformly illuminate the CCD's. Spectral calibration is being performed using Fraunhofer features in the sun and nadir spectra. This is supported by a dedicated spectral correction algorithm in the level 0-1 b software. Dark signal calibration is performed at the dark side of the orbit using long-exposure time dark measurements. Straylight is always monitored at dedicated rows at the side of the images; there are also covered CCD pixels measuring dark current and, at the top and bottom of the image, exposure smear. 50) 51) 52) 53)


Spectral Range


Swath Width

Ground Pixel Size
(along x cross-track)


Global mode

270-310 (UV-1)
306-500 (UV-2+VIS)

2600 km
2600 km

13 km x 48 km
13 km x 24 km

Global observation of all products

Spatial zoom-in mode

270-310 (UV-1)
306-500 (UV-2+VIS)

2600 km
725 km

13 km x 24 km
13 km x 12 km

Regional studies of all products

Spatial zoom-in mode

306-342 (UV)
350-500 (VIS)

2600 km
2600 km

13 km x 12 km
13 km x 12 km

Global observation of some products

Table 5: Characteristics of the main observation modes of OMI


Figure 18: The optical bench of OMI (image credit: KNMI)


Figure 19: Schematic layout of the OMI optical bench (image credit: SRON, KNMI)


Spectral range
Full performance range

Average spectral resolution (FWHM)

Average spectral sampling distance

Data products


270 - 314 nm
270 - 310 nm

0.42 nm

0.32 nm

O3 profile


306 - 380 nm
310 - 365 nm

0.45 nm

0.15 nm

O3 profile, O3 column (TOMS & DOAS), BrO, OClO, SO2, HCHO, aerosol, surface UV-B, surface reflectance, cloud top pressure, cloud cover


350 - 500 nm
365 - 500 nm

0.63 nm

0.21 nm

NO2, aerosol, OClO, surface UV-B, surface reflectance, cloud top pressure, cloud cover

Table 6: Performance parameters of OMI


Figure 20: Schematic of measurement principle of the OMI instrument (image credit: Dutch Space)


Figure 21: Photo of the OMI instrument (image credit: SRON, Ref. 53)


TES (Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer):

The TES instrument is of ATMOS (ATLAS), and AES (Airborne Emission Spectrometer) heritage (PI: Reinhard Beer, NASA/JPL). TES has been developed for NASA by JPL. TES is a high-resolution infrared imaging Connes-type FTS (Fourier Transform Spectrometer), with spectral coverage from 3.2 - 15.4 µm (spectral resolution of 0.03 cm-1). TES has the capability to make both limb and nadir observations. Limb mode: height resolution = 2.3 km, height coverage = 0 - 34 km. In the nadir modes, TES has a spatial resolution of 0.53 km x 5.3 km with a swath of 5.3 km x 8.5 km. TES is a pointable instrument; it can access any target within 45º of the local vertical, or produce regional transects up to 885 km in length without any gaps in coverage. TES employs both, the natural thermal emission of the surface and atmosphere, and reflected sunlight, thereby providing day and night coverage anywhere on the globe. 54) 55) 56)


Figure 22: Schematic layout of the TES optics (image credit: NASA/JPL)

Observations from TES will further understanding of long-term variations in the quantity, distribution, and mixing of minor gases in the troposphere, including sources, sinks, troposphere-stratosphere exchange, and the resulting effects on climate and the biosphere. TES will provide 3-D global maps of tropospheric ozone (primary objective) and its photochemical precursors (chemical species involved in ozone formation and destruction). Other objectives: 57) 58)

- Simultaneous measurements of NOy, CO, O3, and H2O, determination of the global distribution of OH.

- Measurements of SO2 and NOy as precursors to the strong acids H2SO4 and HNO3

- Measurements of gradients of many tropospheric species

- Determination of long-term trends in radiatively active minor constituents in the lower atmosphere.

The following key features are part of the TES instrument design:

• Back-to-back cube corner reflectors to provide the change in optical path difference

• Use of KBr (potassium bromide) material for the beam splitter-recombiner and the compensator

• Only one of two input ports for actual atmospheric measurements. The other input views an internal, grooved, clod reference target

• A diode-pumped solid-state Nd:YAG laser for interferogram sampling control

• Cassegrain telescopes for condensing and collimating wherever possible to minimize the number of transmissive elements in the system.

• A passive space-viewing radiator to maintain the interferometer and optics at 180 K.

• A two-axis gimbaled pointing mirror operating at ambient temperature to permit observation of the full field of regard (a 45º cone about nadir plus the trailing limb).

• Two independent focal plane assemblies maintained at 65 K with active pulse-tube coolers. 59)

The TES instrument operates in a step-and stare configuration when in downlooking mode. At the limb the instrument points to a constant tangent height. Thus, the footprint is smeared along the line-of-sight by about 110 km during the 16 s limb scan (this is comparable to the effective size of the footprint itself). Hence, atmospheric inhomogeneity in the atmosphere becomes an issue; it must be dealt with in data processing (usually through a simplified form of tomography).

The routine operating procedure for TES is to make continual sets of nadir and limb observations (plus calibrations) on a one-day on, one-day off cycle. During the off-days, extensive calibrations and spectral product observations are made.




Spectrometer type

Connes-type four-port FTS (Fourier Transform Spectrometer)

Both limb and nadir viewing capability essential

Spectral sampling distance

Interchangeably 0.0592 cm-1 downlooking and 0.0148 cm-1 at the limb


Optical path difference

Interchangeably±8.45 cm-1 downlooking and ± 33.8 cm at the limb

Double-sided interferograms

Overall spectral coverage

650-3050 cm-1 (3.2-15.4 µm)

Continuous, but with multiple subranges typically 200-300 cm-1 wide

Individual detector array coverage

1A, 1900-3050 cm-1
1B, 820-150 cm-1
2A, 1100-1950 cm-1
2B, 650 -900 cm-1

All MCT photo voltaic (PV) detectors at 65 K.

Array configuration

1 x 16

All four arrays optically conjugated

Aperture diameter

5 cm

Unit magnification system

System étendue (per pixel)

9.45 x 10-5 cm2 sr

Not allowing for small central obscuration from the Cassegrain secondaries

Modulation index

>0.7; 650-3050 cm-1

>0.5 at 1.06 µm (control laser)

Spectral accuracy

±0.00025 cm-1

After correction for finite FOV, off-axis effects, Doppler shifts, etc.


<10% peak to peak; <1% after calibration

All planar transmissive elements wedged

Spatial resolution

0.5 km x 0.5 km at nadir
2.3 km x 2.3 km at limb


Spatial coverage

5.3 km x 8.5 km at nadir
37 km x 23 km at limb


Pointing accuracy

75 µrad pitch, 750 µrad yaw, 1100 µrad roll

Peak-to-peak values

Field of regard

45º cone about nadir plus trailing limb

Also views internal calibration sources

Scan (integration) time

4 s nadir and calibration, 16 s limb

Constant-speed scan, 4.2 cm/s (optical path difference rate)

Max stare time at nadir

208 s

40 downlooking scans

Transect coverage

885 km maximum


Interferogram dynamic range

<=16 bit

Plus four switchable gain steps

Radiometric accuracy

<= 1 K, 650-2500 cm-1

Internal, adjustable, hot blackbody plus cold space

Pixel-to-pixel cross talk


Includes diffraction, aberrations, carrier diffusion, etc.

Spectral SNR

As much as 600:1, 30:1 min requirement

Depends on spectral region and target. General goal is to be source photon shot-noise limited

Instrument lifetime

5 year on orbit

Plus 2 years before launch


1.0 m x 1.3 m x 1.4 m

Earth shade stowed


334 W (average, 361 W (peak)


Instrument mass

385 kg


Instrument data rate

4.5 Mbit/s (average),
6.2 Mbit/s (peak)

Science only

Table 7: TES performance characteristics


Figure 23: Observation geometry of the TES instrument (image credit: NASA/JPL)

TES status: After launch, TES went through a lengthy outgassing procedure to minimize the ice buildup on the detectors. After seven month of operation, the translator mechanism (which moves the reflecting surfaces of the spectrometer) began to show signs of bearing wear. The TES instrument team commanded the instrument to skip the limb sounding modes in May 2005. TES is now operating only in the nadir mode. This will increase the bearing life of the translator and the life of the instrument.


Figure 24: Schematic view of TES on the Aura spacecraft (image credit: NASA/JPL)

1) Note: The EOS/Chem-1 mission was renamed in 2000 to Aura.

2) M. R. Schoeberl, A. R. Douglass, E. Hilsenrath, M. Luce, “The EOS Aura Mission,” Proceedings of IGARSS/IEEE, Sydney, Australia, July 9-13, 2001



5) M. R. Schoeberl, A. R. Douglas, E. Hilsenrath, P. K. Bhartia, J. Barnett, J. Gille, R. Beer, M. Gunson, J. Waters, P. F. Levelt, P. DeCola, “Earth Observing System Missions Benefit Atmospheric Research,” Eos Transactions, Vol. 85, No. 18, May 4, 2004, pp. 177–184,


7) Can Li, Joanna Joiner, Nickolay A. Krotkov, Pawan K. Bhartia, “New Algorithm Vastly Improves Measurements of SO2 Pollution from Space,” NASA/GSFC,feature released Dec. 30, 2013, URL:

8) Can Li, Joanna Joiner, Nickolay A. Krotkov, Pawan K. Bhartia, “A fast and sensitive new satellite SO2 retrieval algorithm based on principal component analysis: Application to the ozone monitoring instrument,” Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 40, Issue 23, pages 6314–6318, 16 December 2013

9) Elizabeth Ritchie (Chair), Ana Barros, Robin Bell, Alexander Braun, Richard Houghton, B. Carol Johnson, Guosheng Liu, Johnny Luo, Jeff Morrill, Derek Posselt, Scott Powell, William Randel, Ted Strub, Douglas Vandemark, “NASA Earth Science Senior Review 2013,” June 14, 2013, URL:

10) Information provided by Anne R. Douglass, Aura Project Scientist at NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, USA.

11) “Our Chaning Atmosphere - Discoveries from EOS Aura,” NASA brochure, 2007, URL:

12) “Northrop Grumman-Built Aura Spacecraft Declared Operational,” Oct. 14, 2004, Space Daily, URL:

13) M. P. Schoeberl, A. R. Douglass, E. Hilsenrath, “Foreword to the Special Issue on the EOS Aura Mission,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1063-1064

14) M. R. Schoeberl, A. R. Douglass, E. Hilsenrath, P. K. Bhartia, R. Beer, J. W. Waters, M. R. Gunson, L. Froidevaux, J. C. Gille, J. J. Barnett, P. F. Levelt, P. DeCola, “Overview of the EOS Aura Mission,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1066-1074, URL:

15) J. Gille, J. Barnett, “HIRDLS Overview and Status,” Aura Science Team Meeting Den Haag, The Netherlands, Nov. 8, 2005

16) A. C. Kelly, “The A-Train: NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) Satellites and other Earth Observation Satellites, Proceedings of ISRSE (International Symposium of Remote Sensing of Environment), Nov. 10-14, 2003, Honolulu, HI

17) G. L. Stephens, D. G. Vane, R. J. Boain, G. G. Mace, K. Sassen, Z. Wang, et al., “The CloudSat Mission and the A-Train,” BAMS, Dec. 2002, pp. 1771-1790

18) M. R. Schoeberl, “The Afternoon Constellation: A Formation of Earth Observing Systems for the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere,” Proceedings of IGARSS 2002, Toronto, Canada, June 24-28, 2002

19) A. C. Kelly, E. J. Macie, “The A-Train: NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) Satellites and other Earth Observation Satellites,” 4th IAA Symposium on Small Satellites for Earth Observation, Berlin, Apr. 7-11, 2003

20) M. Mecham, “The Big Sniff,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 14, 2004, pp. 46-51

21) Eric J. Fetzer, “Observing Clouds and Water Vapor with NASA's A-Train,” Joint GCSS-GPCI/BLCI-RICO Workshop, NASA/GISS New York, USA, Sept. 18, 2006, URL:


23) J. J. Barnett, P. Venters, J. C. Gille, “Direct Measurement of Geopotential Height by the HIRDLS Instrument,” Advances in. Space Research, Vol. 22, 1998, pp. 1497-1500.

24) M. A. Dials, J. C. Gille, J. J. Barnett, J .G. Whitney, “Description of the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) instrument,”. SPIE, Vol. 3437, 1998, pp. 84-91

25) “High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder ,” URL:

26) J. J. Barnett, C. L. Hepplewhite, L. Rokke, J. C. Gille, “Mapping the Optical Obscuration in the NASA Aura HIRDLS Instrument,” Proceedings of the SPIE Conference Optics and Photonics 2005, San Diego, CA, USA, July 31-Aug. 4, 2005, Vol. 5883

27) J. Gille, T. Eden, G. Francis, A. Lambert, B. Nardi, J. Barnett, C. Cavanaugh, H. Lee, C. Craig, V. Dean, C. Halvorson, C. Krinsky, J. McInerney, B. Petersen, “Development of special corrective processing of HIRDLS data and early validation,” Proceedings of the SPIE Conference Optics and Photonics 2005, San Diego, CA, USA, July 31-Aug. 4, 2005, Vol. 5883

28) Bruno Nardi, John C. Gille, John J. Barnett, Cora E. Randall, V. Lynn Harvey, Alison Waterfall, W. Jolyon Reburn, Thierry Leblanc, Tom J. McGee, Laurence W. Twigg, Anne M. Thompson, Sophie Godin-Beekmann, Peter F. Bernath, Bojan R. Bojkov, Chris D. Boone, Charles Cavanaugh, Michael T. Coffey, James Craft, Cheryl Craig, Vincil Dean, Thomas D. Eden, Gene Francis, Lucien Froidevaux, Chris Halvorson, James W. Hannigan, Christopher L. Hepplewhite, Douglas E. Kinnison, Rashid Khosravi, Charlie Krinsky, Alyn Lambert, Hyunah Lee, Joanne Loh, Steven T. Massie, I. Stuart McDermid, Daniel Packman, Brendan Torpy, Jessica Valverde-Canossa, Kaley A. Walker, David N. Whiteman, Jacquelyn C. Witte, Greg Young, “Initial Validation of Ozone Measurements from the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS),” Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 113, June 10, 2008, D16S36, doi:10.1029/2007JD008837

29) B. Nardi, J. Gille, J. Barnett, D. Kinnison, S. Massie, M. Coffey, C. Randall, V. L. Harvey, A. Waterfall, J. Reburn, J. Alexander & HIRDLS Team, “HIRDLS Validation Overview,” HIRDLS Science Meeting, Oxford, UK, June 26, 2008


31) J. W. Waters, L. Froidevaux, R. S. Harwood, R. F. Jarnot, H. M. Pickett, W. G. Read, P. H. Siegel, R. E. Cofield, M. J. Filipiak, D. A. Flower, J. R. Holden, G. K. Lu, N. J. Livesey, G. L. Manney, H. C. Pumphrey, M. L. Santee, D. L. Wu, et al., ““The Earth Observing System Microwave Limb Sounder (EOS MLS) on the Aura satellite,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1075-1092

32) H. M. Pickett, “Microwave Limb Sounder THz Module on Aura,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1122-1130

33) R. E. Cofield, P. C. Stek, “Design and Field-of-View Calibration of 114-660 GHz Optics of the Earth Observing System Microwave Limb Sounder,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1166-1181

34) R. F. Jarnot, V. S. Perun, M. J. Schwartz, “Radiometric and Spectral Performance and Calibration of the GHz Bands of EOS MLS,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1131-1143

35) Dong L. Wu, Michael J. Schwartz, Joe W. Waters, Varavut Limpasuvan, Qian Wu, Timothy L. Killeen, “Mesospheric doppler wind measurements from Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS),” Advances in Space Research, Volume 42, Issue 7, October 1, 2008, pp. 1246-1252

36) J. W. Waters, L. Froidevaux, R. S. Harwood, R. F. Jarnot, H. M. Pickett, W. G. Read, R. E. Cofield, M. J. Filipiak, N. J. Livesey, G. L. Manney, M. L. Santee, H. C. Pumphrey, D. L. Wu, “The Earth Observing System Microwave Limb Sounder (EOS MLS) on the Aura satellite,” AMS 13th Conference on Middle Atmosphere (Cambridge, MA), June 8-17, 2005

37) J. W. Waters, et al., “The UARS and EOS Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) Experiments,” Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, Vol. 56, 1999, pp. 194-218

38) K. A. Lee, R. R. Lay, R. F. Jarnot, R. E. Cofield, H. M. Pickett, P. C. Stek, D. A. Flower, “EOS Aura MLS, First Year Post-Launch Engineering Assessment,” Proceedings of the SPIE Conference Optics and Photonics, San, Diego, CA, July 31-Aug. 4, 2005, Vol. 5882

39) P. F. Levelt, J. P. Veefkind, M. Kroon, E. J. Brinksma, R. D. McPeters, G. Labow, N. Krotkov, D. Ionov, E. Hilsenrath, J. Tamminen, A. Tanskanen, G. H. J. van den Oord, P. K. Bhartia, “Several First Year's Results of the Ozone Monitoring Instrument,” Proceedings of the Atmospheric Science Conference 2006, ESA/ESRIN, Frascati, Italy, May 8-12, 2006

40) P. F. Levelt, B. van den Oord, M. R. Dobber, A. Mälkki, H. Visser, J. de Vries, P. Stammes, J. O. V. Lindell, H. Saari, “The Ozone Monitoring Instrument,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1093-1101

41) P. F. Levelt, B. van den Oord, E. Hilsenrath, G. W. Leppelmeier, et al., “Science Objectives of EOS-Aura's Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI),” Proceedings of the Quadrennial Ozone Symposium, Sapporo, Japan, 2000, pp. 127-128

42) E. Laan, J. de Vries, B. Kruizinga, H. Visser, et al., “Ozone Monitoring with the OMI Instrument,” Proceedings of 45th Annual Meeting of SPIE, San Diego, CA, July 30 to Aug. 4, 2000, Paper No 4132-41, pp. 334-343

43) E. Laan, J. de Vries, P. Levelt, P. Stammes, H. Saari, J. Lundell, A. Maelkki, et al., “Ozone Monitoring in the Next Millennium with the OMI Instrument,” Proc. IAF Congress, Oct. 2-6, 2000, Rio de Janeiro, IAF-99-B.2.09

44) M. G. Kowalewski, G. Jaross, R. P. Cebula, S. L. Taylor, G. H. J. van den Oord, M. R. Dobber, R. Dirksen, “Evaluation of the Ozone Monitoring Instrument’s pre-launch radiometric calibration using in-flight data,” Proceedings of the SPIE Conference Optics & Photonics 2005, San Diego, CA, USA, July 31-Aug. 4, 2005, Vol. 5882

45) P. F. Levelt, J. P. Veefkind, M. Kroon, E. J. Brinksma, R. D. McPeters, G. Labow, N. Krotkov, D. Ionov, E. Hilsenrath, J. Tamminen, A. Tanskanen, G. H. J. van den Oord, P. K. Bhartia, “Several First Year's Results of the Ozone Monitoring Instrument,” Atmospheric Science Conference 2006, ESA/ESRIN, Frascati, Italy, May 8-12, 2006

46) M. Dobber, Q. Kleipool, P. Veefkind, P. Levelt, N. Rozemeijer, R. Hoogeveen, I. Aben, J. de Vries, G. Otter, “From Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) to Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI),” Proceedings of the 7th ICSO (International Conference on Space Optics) 2008, Toulouse, France, Oct. 14-17, 2008

47) “Detector Modules for OMI Ozone Monitoring Instrument onboard NASA EOS Aura Satellite,” 2004, URL:

48) “Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) Data User’s Guide,” OMI-DUG-3.0, December 3, 2009, Produced by OMI Team. URL:


50) M. Dobber, R. Dirksen, P. F. Levelt, G. van den Oord, G. Jaross, M. Kowalewski, G. H. Mount, D. Heath, E. Hilsenrath, R. Cebula, “Ozone Monitoring Instrument Flight-Model On-ground and In-flight Calibration,” Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Space Optics, March 30-April 2, 2004, Toulouse, France, ESA SP-554

51) K. Smorenburg, M. Dobber, E. Schenkeveld, R. Vink, H. Visser, “Slitfunction measurement optical stimulus,” Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 4881, 9th International Symposium on Remote Sensing, Aghia Pelagia, Crete, Greece, Sept. 23-27, 2002

52) M. R. Dobber, R. J. Dirksen, P. F. Levelt, G. H. J. van den Oord, R. H. M. Voors, Q. Kleipool, G. Jaross, M. Kowalewski, E. Hilsenrath, G. W. Leppelmeier, W. Dierssen, N. C. Rozemeijer, “Ozone Monitoring Instrument Calibration,” IEEE Transaction on Geoscience and Remote sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1209-1238, URL:


54) R. Beer, “TES on the Aura Mission: Scientific Objectives, Measurements, and Analysis Overview,” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Vol. 44, No 5, May 2006, pp. 1102-1105

55) R. Beer, T. A. Glavich, D. M. Rider, “Tropospheric emission spectrometer for the Earth Observing System's Aura satellite,” Applied Optics, Vol. 40, No 15, May 20, 2001, pp. 2356-2367


57) R. Beer, “The EOS AURA Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES), Status of the Program,” 12th ASSFTS (Atmospheric Science from Space using Fourier Transform Spectrometry) Workshop, May 18-20, 2005, Quebec City, Canada, URL:

58) P. Varanasi, S. Tyler, “Operations Concept for TES Mission Operations,” Proceedings of the IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, March 9-16, 2002

59) S. A. Collins, J. I. Rodriguez, R. G. Ross, “TES cryocooler system design and development,” Advances in Cryogenic Engineering: Proceedings of the Cryogenic Engineering Conference (CEC) AIP (American Institute of Physics), Conference Proceedings, Vol. 613, May 2002, pp. 1053-1060

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates.

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