Minimize EarthCARE

EarthCARE will advance our understanding of the role that clouds and aerosols play in reflecting incident solar radiation back into space and trapping infrared radiation emitted from Earth's surface.

The mission will employ high-performance lidar and radar technology that has never been flown in space before.

EarthCARE will deliver unprecedented datasets to allow scientists to study the relationship of clouds, aerosols and radiation at accuracy levels that will significantly improve our understanding of these highly variable parameters.

Mission details:

Launch Date: 2021

Duration: It has a design lifetime of three years, including a six-month commissioning phase.

The scientific objectives of the mission are:

  • To observe vertical profiles of natural and anthropogenic aerosols on a global scale, their radiative properties and interaction with clouds
  • To observe vertical distributions of atmospheric liquid water and ice on a global scale, their transport by clouds and their radiative impact
  • To observe cloud distribution, cloud-precipitation interactions and the characteristics of vertical motions within clouds
  • To retrieve profiles of atmospheric radiative heating and cooling through the combination of the retrieved aerosol and cloud properties

Mission orbit:

  • Orbit: Sun-synchronous
  • Mean solar local time: 14:00
  • Mean spherical altitude: 393.14 km
  • Inclination: 97.05 degrees
  • Repeat cycle: 25 days/389 orbits 9 days/140 orbits
  • Orbital duration: 5552.7 sec 5554.3 sec


EarthCARE is dominated by the large Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) antenna, which is 2.5 m across. The long trailing solar panel at the rear gives the satellite an overall length of 19 m. The solar panel is made up of five sections and covers an area of 21 sq m. EarthCARE has a mass of approximately 2000kg.


The Atmospheric Lidar (ATLID) provides vertical profiles of aerosols and thin clouds. It operates at a wavelength of 355nm and has a high-spectral resolution receiver and depolarisation channel.

The Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) provides vertical profiles measurements of clouds and has the capability to observe vertical velocities of cloud particles through Doppler measurements. It operates at 94GHz.

The Multi-Spectral Imager (MSI) provides across-track information on clouds and aerosols with channels in the visible, near infrared, shortwave- and thermal infrared.

The Broad-Band Radiometer (BBR) provides measurements of top-of-the-atmosphere radiances and fluxes. It has one short-wave and one long-wave channel with three fixed viewing directions pointing in nadir and aft-directions.

Data Processing:

The satellite data will be downlinked to a high-latitude ground station and the instrument data will be processed up to Level 1 by ESA for the lidar, imager and radiometer, and by JAXA for the radar.

Both ESA and JAXA will distribute these data and geophysical Level 2 data to their respective users.