Case study


A mission to better understand the interactions between cloud, radiative and aerosol processes that play a role in climate regulation.


Artist's impression of EarthCARE. Credit: ESA.

The mission should lead to more reliable climate predictions and better weather forecasts. The mission is:

  • a joint European-Japanese mission
  • in development
  • due for launch in 2020

The EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer) mission is being developed by The European Space Agency in co-operation with JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and will address the need for a better understanding of the interactions between cloud, radiative and aerosol (fine particles) processes that play a role in climate regulation.

The EarthCARE satellite is the sixth Earth Explorer mission of ESA’s Living Planet Programme. Earth Explorers are focused research missions dedicated to specific aspects of our planet’s environment carrying onboard leading-edge technologies, with the overall emphasis on learning more about the interactions between components and the impact that human activity is having on natural processes.

Aerosols control cloud properties, while clouds control the production of rain and convection influences stratospheric humidity. The observations of EarthCARE will lead to more reliable climate predictions and better weather forecasts.

Mission facts

On the 27 May 2008 The European Space Agency and Astrium GmbH signed a contract worth €263 million to provide the EarthCARE satellite and Astrium GmbH will be responsible for the satellite’s design, development and integration.

EarthCARE has been designed with the specific scientific objectives of measuring cloud-aerosol-radiation interactions so they may be included in climate and numerical weather forecasting models.


The satellite will weigh about 1.7 tonnes and will carry four instruments; an Atmospheric Lidar, a Broad-Band Radiometer and a Multi-Spectral Imager developed by ESA, and a Cloud Profiling Radar developed by JAXA.

ATLID (Atmospheric Lidar) and CPR (Cloud Profiling Radar) will provide vertical profiles of cloud and aerosol structures.

MSI (multi-spectral imager) will enable different cloud types and aerosols to be distinguished and will provide the meteorological/optical framework of the actively sampled profiles.

BBR (Broad-Band radiometer) will provide broadband radiances at the top of the atmosphere that will serve as a consistency test of the retrievals of cloud radiative properties from the active instruments.

UK involvement

The main structure of the spacecraft will be built by RUAG Space in Switzerland but a significant proportion of the project will be manufactured in the UK.

SSTL is supplying the MSI instrument which includes a VNS camera (covering the VIS, NIR and SWIR bands) and a TIR camera. The MSI Instrument Control Unit is located within the interior of the satellite and is being developed by SEA (Bristol). SEA will also supply the Broadband Radiometer instrument.

For more detailed information, please visit ESA’s website.

Published 29 April 2014
Last updated 12 December 2018 + show all updates
  1. Launch date updated to 2020.
  2. First published.