NASA’s latest Earth-observing satellite, Aqua, carrying the
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory-managed Atmospheric Infrared
Sounder instrument, successfully launched this morning at 2:55
a.m. Pacific Time. Aqua is dedicated to advancing our
understanding of Earth’s water cycle and our environment.
Launching the Aqua spacecraft marks a major milestone in support
of NASA’s mission to help us better understand and protect our

The Aqua spacecraft lifted off from the Western Test Range
of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard a Delta II rocket.
Spacecraft separation occurred at 3:54 a.m. Pacific Time,
inserting Aqua into a 705-kilometer (438-mile) orbit.

“The Aqua project has truly been a team effort and we are
very excited this morning,” said Aqua project manager Phil
Sabelhaus at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The primary goal of Aqua, as the name implies, is to gather
information about water in Earth’s system. Equipped with six
state-of-the-art instruments, Aqua will collect data on global
precipitation, evaporation and the cycling of water. This
information will help scientists all over the world to better
understand Earth’s water cycle and determine if the water cycle
is accelerating as a result of climate change.

JPL’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder will measure Earth’s
atmosphere and surface, allowing scientists to improve weather
prediction and observe changes in Earth’s climate.

Aqua is the latest in a series of Earth Observing System
spacecraft, following the Terra satellite launched in December
1999. Aqua will cross the equator daily at 1:30 p.m. as it
heads north. The early afternoon observation time contrasts
with the Terra satellite, which crosses the equator between
10:30 and 10:45 a.m. daily. Aqua’s afternoon observations,
combined with Terra’s morning observations, will provide
important insights into the daily cycling of key scientific
parameters such as precipitation and ocean circulation.

Aqua is a joint project among the United States, Japan and
Brazil. The United States provided the spacecraft and four of
the six scientific instruments. In addition to the JPL-provided
Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, the other U.S. instruments include
the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and the
Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, both provided by the Goddard
center, and the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System,
provided by NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

Japan’s National Space Development Agency provided the
Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer, while the Instituto
Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (the Brazilian Institute for
Space Research) provided the Humidity Sounder for Brazil.

Aqua is part of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a long-
term research effort dedicated to understanding and protecting
our home planet. Through the study of Earth, NASA will help to
provide sound science to policy and economic decision makers so
as to better life here, while developing the technologies needed
to explore the universe and search for life beyond our home

More information about the Aqua program is available at:

More information about the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder is
available at:

Information about NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise can be
found at:

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology
in Pasadena.