Cloudsat launched in the wee hours this morning

Cloudsat launch 28 April, 2006 3:02 am Pacific It’s gonna go. No, it’s scrubbed: Communication problems. Rescheduled. Nope, weather problems. Rescheduled. Oops, try again. Such was the Will it? Won’t it? back n forth over the last coupla weeks as the rocket with Cloudsat and Calipso sat on the launch pad at Vandenberg, waiting for the right time to launch in its split-second window. A visit to JPL home page today has a happy picture of a rocket launch. 3:02 am. I slumbered peacefully, unaware. But woke to find the happy news in email. Go, Cloudsat!

The other night, Doc M and I lamented the twists and turns suffered by CloudSat. A voltage regulator (I think) that was outta whack. Review board smackdowns of the mission manager (whose office was next door to Doc M’s back when he first came to JPL). But persistence and hard work got those hardware issues ironed out. Then Cloudsat was scheduled for launch last fall. Nope, a strike at Boeing delayed the launch. So this April 2006 bit of will it? won’t it? was a fitting (curse it!) conclusion to Cloudsat’s time on earth. Let’s hope that now it’s airborne and orbiting, it’ll have much more smooth sailing.

What’ll CloudSat and Calipso do? Help us understand the atmosphere, weather and climate:

“With the successful launch of CloudSat and Calipso we take a giant step forward in our ability to study the global atmosphere,” said Calipso Principal Investigator Dr. David Winker of NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. “In the years to come, we expect these missions to spark many new insights into the workings of Earth’s climate and improve our abilities to forecast weather and predict climate change.”

Each spacecraft will transmit pulses of energy and measure the portion of the pulses scattered back to the satellite. CloudSat’s Cloud-Profiling Radar is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than typical weather radar. It can detect clouds and distinguish between cloud particles and precipitation. Calipso’s polarization lidar can detect aerosol particles and distinguish between aerosol and cloud particles. Lidar, similar in principle to radar, uses reflected light to determine the characteristics of the target area. [Read More]