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Observations and Flight Programs

NASA, as an aerospace research and development agency, sponsors and conducts flight missions to obtain data in furtherance of its objectives. In NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), flight missions range from suborbital projects—including balloons, sounding rockets, and airplanes—to interplanetary probes and flagship observatories. All investigations and missions selected and flown must respond to Agency goals and strategic objectives. Mission opportunities are open to all proposers, within fixed rules, via public announcement, and selections are based primarily on scientific and technical merit as evaluated by independent peer review. Foreign partners are frequent and valued participants in joint missions. The partnerships are generally conducted on a cooperative, no-exchange-of-funds basis. NASA also works closely with a number of other Federal agencies to implement and support our flight missions.


Launch Mission Category Instruments

Aug. 1, 1997


Earth Observing System (EOS)
  • SeaWiFS: Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor
April 15, 1999 Landsat-7 Earth Observing System (EOS)
  • ETM+: Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus
Dec. 18, 1999 Terra Earth Observing System (EOS)
  • CERES: Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System
  • MISR: Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer
  • MODIS: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
  • ASTER: Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
  • MOPITT: Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere
Nov. 21, 2000 NMP/EO-1 Technology Development
  • ALI:Advanced Land Imager
  • Hyperion
  • LAC
March 17, 2001 ESSP/GRACE ESSP
  • GPS
  • USO
  • SCA (Denmark/France)
May 4, 2002 Aqua  Earth Observing System (EOS), A-Train
  • AIRS: Atmospheric Infrared Sounder
  • AMSU-A: Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit -A
  • CERES: Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System
  • MODIS: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
  • HSB: Humidity Sounder for Brazil
  • AMSR-E: Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS
June 10, 2011 Aquarius ESSP
  • L-band radiometer
  • L-band scatterometer
Oct. 28, 2011 Suomi NPP  Inter-Agency Partnerships
  • ATMS
  • CrIS
  • OMPS
Feb. 11, 2013 Landsat-8 Earth Observing System (EOS)
  • OLI
  • TIRS
Feb. 27, 2014 GPM Core Precipitation Missions
  • DPR (Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar)
  • GMI (GPM Microwave Imager)
July 2, 2014 ESSP/OCO-2  ESSP, A-Train
  • Three grating spectrometers
Jan. 10, 2015 CATS Int. Space Station Other
Jan. 31, 2015 SMAP Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 1
  • L-band radiometer
  • L-band radar
Feb. 11, 2015 DSCOVR Inter-Agency Partnerships
  • Plasma-Magnetometer (PlasMag)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR)
  • Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC)
2017 JPSS-1 Inter-Agency Partnerships
  • ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder)
  • CERES (Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System)
  • CrIS (Cross-Track Infrared Sounder)
  • OMPS (Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite)
  • VIIRS (Visible/Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite)
Aug. 2017 GRACE-FO Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 3, Other
  • Microwave or Laser Ranging System
Oct. 2017 ICESat-2 Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 1
  • ATLAS (Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System)
  • GPSP (Global Positioning System Payload)
2018 ECOSTRESS Venture Class, Earth Venture-Instrument
  • High- resolution thermal infrared radiometer
  • Grating Spectrometers
2019 GEDI Venture Class, Earth Venture-Instrument
  • Lidar
2020 NI-SAR Earth Systematic Missions
  • InSAR - Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar
2020 SWOT Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 2
  • Ka- or Ku-Band Radar
  • Ku-Band Altimeter
  • MWR (Microwave Radiometer)
2022 PACE Decadal Survey, Other
  • Ocean color spectrometer
  • Polarimeter (TBD)
2023 ACE Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 2
  • Spectrometer
  • Polarimeter
  • Cloud Radar
2023 GEO-CAPE Pre-formulation Decadal Survey Mission
  • UV-Vis-NIR
  • IR imagers
TBD ASCENDS Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 2
  • Multifrequency laser
TBD HyspIRI Earth Systematic Missions, Decadal Survey, Tier 2
  • Hyperspectral spectrometer
  • Laser Altimeter


Mission Category
AVIRIS: Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer Airborne
UAVSAR: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar Airborne
MASTER: MODIS/ASTER airborne simulator Airborne
HyTES: Hyperspectral Thermal Emission Spectrometer Airborne
PRISM: Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer Airborne
EOS Land Validation Sites In-Situ
FTIR: Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy In-Situ
AERONET : Aerosol Robotics Network In-Situ
Ocean Buoys In-Situ