Catalogue of satellite missions



This section gives details of the satellite missions of CEOS members and of the CEOS/WMO database from which much of the data in this handbook is derived.

Nearly all information contained in this catalogue has been gathered from and verified by CEOS agencies but it should be noted that the launch date and duration of some planned missions is uncertain (eg due to changes in funding or policy, changes in requirements, etc) hence, the accuracy of timelines relating to these missions cannot be guaranteed. If the month of the launch of a planned mission has not been specified the timeline is shown to commence at the beginning of the planned year of launch. It should also be noted that missions currently operating beyond their planned life are shown as operational until the end of 2005 unless an alternative date has been proposed.

The catalogue of CEOS agency EO satellite missions is arranged both chronologically by launch date and alphabetically by mission name. For each of the missions, the following information is supplied:

Mission name and agency Mission acronym

Full mission name

Agency acronym
Status Current: at least the prototype has been launched, and financing is approved for the whole series

Approved: financing is available for the whole series, the prototype is fully defined, the development is in phase C/D

Planned: financing is available up to the end of phase B, financing of the full series is being considered

Considered: conceptual studies and phase A have been completed, financing of phase B is in preparation
Key dates Launch date

Estimated end of life date
Primary applications Of those measurements discussed in section 7
Instructions A list of instruments on board the mission from the catalogue in section 9
Orbit details Type of orbit




Repeat cycle

LST: Local Solar Time – the time of satellite equator overpass

Longitude (for geostationary orbits)

Ascending/descending: whether the satellite crosses the equator in a northbound (ascending) or southbound (descending) direction
URL For further information via internet

Recent events

Five missions were launched by CEOS agencies during 2004:

Mission Agency Launch date
(Detection of Electro-Magnetic Emissions Transmitted from Earthquake Regions)
CNES 29 June 2004
(formerly EOS Chemistry)
NASA 15 July 2004
Geostationary Meteorological Satellite
NRSCC 19 October 2004
(Polarization and Anisotropy of Reflectances for Atmospheric Science coupled with Observations from a LIDAR)
CNES 18 December 2004
SICH-1M NSAU / ROSKOSMOS 24 December 2004

STOP PRESS: The NASA/JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) was removed from the Handbook tables due to plans for its completion in late 2004. It has just been announced that the mission will continue until May 2005.

No fewer than 23 missions are planned for launch before the end of 2005:
Mission Agency Launch date
Meteor-M No1
Vulkan-Kompas-2 ROSKOSMOS Jan 2005
MTSAT-1R (Multi-functional Transport Satellite) JMA Feb 2005
CARTOSAT-1 (Indian Remote Sensing Satellite – P5) ISRO Mar 2005
CRYOSAT (CryoSat (Earth Explorer Opportunity Mission)) ESA Mar 2005
NOAA-N (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – N) NOAA Mar 2005
GOES-N (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – N) NOAA Apr 2005
Monitor-E ROSKOSMOS Apr 2005
CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations) NASA / CNES Apr 2005
CloudSat NASA Apr 2005
DMSP F-17 (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F-17) NASA Apr 2005
TopSat (Optical Imaging Satellite) BNSC May 2005
METEOSAT-9 (Meteosat Second Generation-2) EUMETSAT Jun 2005
Resurs DK ROSKOSMOS Jun 2005
ALOS (Advanced Land Observing Satellite) JAXA Sep 2005
KOMPSAT-2 (Korea Multi-Purpose Satellite 2) KARI Oct 2005
TerraSAR-X DLR Oct 2005
METOP-1 (Meteorological Operational Polar Satellite – 1) EUMETSAT Dec 2005
Baumanets ROSKOSMOS Dec 2005
RADARSAT-2 (Radar satellite-2) CSA Dec 2005
SICH-2 NSAU Dec 2005

Current missions

68 different Earth observation satellite missions are estimated to be currently operating (January 2005). Many of these comprise series of missions planned to provide the continuity which is essential for many observations and applications. The principal satellite series are highlighted below:

Geostationary meteorological satellites:

There is a world-wide network of operational geostationary meteorological satellites which provide visible and infra-red images of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. Countries/regions with current geostationary operational meteorological satellites are the USA (GOES series), Europe (METEOSAT series), Japan (GMS series), India (INSAT and Kalapana series), and China (FY series). Russia will follow-on from the previous GOMS series by launching the first satellite in the Elektro-L series in 2006.

Crustal motion and gravitational field series:

A number of small satellite missions designed to measure the Earth’s crustal motion and the Earth’s gravitational field have been launched – since as long ago as 1967. The space segment typically comprises corner cube laser retroreflectors and the ground segment is a global network of transportable laser sites. The design life of the space segment is many thousands of years. These missions include the Diademe and Starlette series (CNES) and the LAGEOS series (NASA & ASI). More recently, missions such as CHAMP (DLR) and GRACE (NASA) have been launched to provide high precision measurements of the Earth’s gravitational field.

DMSP series:

The long-term meteorological programme of the US Department of Defense (DoD) – with the objective of collecting and disseminating worldwide atmospheric, oceanographic, solar-geophysical, and cloud cover data on a daily basis.

NOAA polar orbiters:

The current series of operational polar orbiting meteorological satellites is provided by NOAA. Two satellites are maintained in polar orbit at any one time, one in a “morning” orbit and one in an “afternoon” orbit. The series provides a wide range of data of interest, including sea surface temperature, cloud cover, data for land studies (notably the AVHRR sensor) , temperature and humidity profiles and ozone concentrations.


These satellites form a joint NASA/CNES precision radar altimetry mission to measure ocean topography and hence, the speed and direction of ocean currents.

ERS & Envisat series:

ERS-1 was launched by ESA in July 1991, ERS-2 in April 1995, and Envisat in March 2002. This series concentrates on global and regional environmental issues, making use of active microwave techniques that enable a range of measurements to be made of land, sea and ice surfaces independent of cloud cover and atmospheric conditions. In addition, the ATSR/AATSR instruments on these missions provides images of the surface or cloud top and the GOME instrument on ERS-2 provides measurements of ozone levels. ERS-1 and ERS-2 operated in tandem for around 1 year in 1995 and 1996 providing data for topographic applications such as differential interferometry. Envisat features a range of new sensors for land surface and atmospheric studies.

IRS series:

The Indian IRS satellites (which include the RESOURCESAT and CARTOSAT missions) provide high resolution imagery in a range of visible and infra-red bands. Their primary objectives are in support of agriculture, disaster management, land and water resource management. Latest in the series was RESOURCESAT-1 (IRS-P6) launched in October 2003.

METEOR series:

Roshydromet maintains these missions – mainly for operational meteorological purposes. Other applications include experimental measurement of ozone and Earth radiation budget.

RADARSAT series:
launched in November of 1995, RADARSAT provides researchers and operational users with a range of SAR data products which are used for marine applications such as ship routing, and ice forecasting as well as land applications such as resource management and geological mapping. Data continuity will be ensured through the proposed launch of RADARSAT-2.

SPOT and Landsat series:
The SPOT satellites (lead agency CNES), and the Landsat satellites (lead agency USGS) provide high resolution imagery in a range of visible and infra-red bands. They are used extensively for high resolution land studies. Data from these satellites is supplemented by availability of very high resolution imagery (up to 1m) from various commercial satellites.

CBERS series:

A joint mission series of China and Brazil, aimed at environmental monitoring and Earth resources. The latest in the series was launched in October 2003.

KOMPSAT series:

Korean missions aimed at cartography, land use and planning and ocean and disaster monitoring – starting from December 1999.

NASA’s EOS missions:

Carrying the latest advanced sensors and each mission dedicated to investigation of particular Earth System issues – including the Terra, Aqua and Aura missions. NASA has also launched a number of missions aimed at developing understanding of the sun’s influence on our climate, and its variability – including the ACRIMSAT, SORCE, and TIMED programmes.

Future missions

Current plans supplied by CEOS agencies estimate that of order 100 new satellite missions will be launched for operation between 2005 and 2020. The next few years mark a significant era for satellite Earth observations, with half of these new missions to be launched by April 2007.
These new programmes will ensure continuity of key measurements, provide improved resolutions and accuracies, and introduce several exciting new capabilities. Some of the highlights are described below:

Gravity and magnetic field studies:

The GRACE and GOCE missions are dedicated to providing more precise measurements of the geoid, while DEMETER (currently in orbit), Kanopus-Vulkan, and Vulkan-Kompas-2 will study links between electromagnetic fields and earthquake predictability.

Polar ice cap studies:

Given, the significance of information on changes in the continental ice sheets, two missions have been dedicated to their study: NASA’s ICESat (already launched Jan 2003) and ESA’s Cryosat (Mar 2005).

Cloud properties and climate links:

By April 2005, a multiple satellite constellation will be in place (comprising CloudSat, Aqua, Aura, CALIPSO and PARASOL) and will fly in orbital formation to gather data needed to evaluate and improve the way clouds are represented in global models, and to develop a more complete knowledge of their poorly understood role in climate change and the cloud-climate feedback.

Operational meteorology:

The current geostationary programmes will continue operationally. With the launch of the METOP series late in 2005, EUMETSAT and NOAA will share responsibility for the provision of polar orbiting meteorological satellites. The NOAA series of satellites will evolve to become NPOESS, featuring more advanced sensors and new capabilities. China will also operate the FY-3 series of polar orbiting satellites from early 2006.

Atmospheric studies:

New data on the chemistry and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere will be gathered by missions from many countries, including the recently launched Aura (USA), as well as future missions such as GOSAT and GCOM (Japan). ADM-Aeolus (ESA) will provide new information on winds.

Radiation budget:

Continuity and new capabilities are provided by NASA’s SORCE (launched in 2003) and DSCOVR (early 2008) missions, by the PICARD mission (early 2008) of CNES, and by operational meteorology missions, such as the MSG and NPOESS series.

Ocean observations:

Continuity and improvements in many current measurements have been assured with the launch of missions such as Envisat and Aqua. SMOS (2007) and SAC-D/Aquarius (2008) are worthy of special note – since they will provide new capabilities for measurements of ocean salinity. Ocean surface wind and topography measurements – pioneered by the Topex-Poseidon and ERS missions – will be continued operationally by sensors on the METOP and NPOESS series.

Land surface observations:

A range of different sensors are planned for land surface observations, including advanced SAR systems such as ALOS and TerraSAR-X & –L. SMOS will measure soil moisture from 2007.

Hyperspectral observations:

A new generation of sensors is emerging, featuring 100’s of different spectral bands, and with the capability – using spectral-libraries - to remotely sense the chemical composition of surfaces. Such sensors (including on ASI’s ‘Hyperspectral Mission’ and China’s ‘HJ-1A’) are expected to provide new and exciting capabilities for Earth observation of land, sea, and atmosphere.

CEOS/WMO Database

The information presented in the CEOS Handbook is a much condensed summary of the information provided in the CEOS/WMO Database. This database contains extensive information on the capabilities of both satellite and in-situ observing system capabilities, and relates them in some detail to the requirements of key user programmes. The database is maintained by WMO in co-operation with ESA.

The database was established to support planning of future observing systems, with the primary aim of improving the extent to which space system capabilities meet user requirements for observations. Although many possible uses have been identified for the database, its structure and level of detail are designed primarily to assist in the assessment of conformance between users' requirements for observations and the potential capability of the space segments of satellite systems. To this end, the following information is included in the Database:

  • from the user communities ("Users"), a summary of their observational requirements, as available to CEOS through its partnerships with many user communities;
  • from the in situ observing system operators and space agencies ("Providers"), a summary of the potential performances of their in situ and satellite instruments, expressed in the same terms as the user requirements;
  • instrument and mission descriptions sufficiently detailed to support the evaluation of their performances;
  • programmatic information to permit assessment of service continuity aspects.

Click here (right click for download) a PDF list of missions by year and sponsoring agency

Click here (right click to download) PDF missions timeline chart

Click here (right click for download) for MS Word table of satellite missions and instruments (alphabetical)

This MS Word document features hyperlinks for ease of navigation between mission and instrument information

Click here (right click for download) for PDF table of satellite missions (alphabetical)

Those interested in obtaining a copy of the database (available as an MS Access stand-alone application on CD-ROM) for more detailed investigation are encouraged to contact Dr Don Hinsman at WMO: