Space Commerce

Ball Aerospace-built CloudSat Spacecraft and CALIPSO Instrument Celebrate Eight Years on-orbit

By Marc Boucher
Press Release
April 28, 2014
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Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. today celebrates the eighth anniversary of on-orbit operations for the CloudSat and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) Earth science satellites.
The company designed and built the CloudSat spacecraft bus and the CALIPSO instrument that launched April 28, 2006 to join the constellation of spacecraft called the “A-Train,” dedicated to studying the Earth’s weather and environment.

“The innovative Earth science provided by these two missions has been felt on a global scale,” said Jim Oschmann, Vice President and General Manager for Ball’s Civil Space and Technology business unit. “The longevity of both spacecraft demonstrate Ball’s significant track record for high reliability missions on a cost-constrained budget.”

Under contract to NASA Langley Research Center, Ball was responsible for two scientific instruments, the communications suite and integrating the payload for CALIPSO, the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder and Satellite Observations mission. Ball’s lidar (light detection and ranging) instrument provides accurate, high resolution, vertical profiles of clouds and aerosols while the Wide Field camera provides a large scale view of the atmosphere. Working jointly with a third instrument supplied by the French Centre National D’Etude Spatiales (CNES) these instruments enable improved predictions of climate change, aerosol 3-D structure and air quality. The CALIPSO lasers have generated more than four billion pulses to help scientists understand how clouds and aerosols affect Earth’s climate.

Launched jointly with CALIPSO was CloudSat, a mission to study the effects of clouds on climate and weather. Ball Aerospace built the CloudSat spacecraft and tested and integrated the Cloud Profiling Radar payload.

CloudSat gives scientists a never-before-seen 3-D perspective of Earth’s clouds that answers questions about how they form, evolve and affect our weather, climate and freshwater supply. After surpassing its design life of three years, CloudSat’s aging batteries began to lose power. Ball implemented an innovative solution that has allowed the spacecraft to continue operating and collect data in daylight-only mode. The CloudSat team at Ball won a NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Award for its mission-saving efforts.

More than 1000 peer-reviewed scientific papers have been written based on CALIPSO data; CloudSat has more than 600 to date. Both missions were built on cost-capped budgets for the Earth System Science Pathfinder Program and have delivered high value science far exceeding mission design life.

Ball Aerospace built the CloudSat spacecraft and tested and integrated the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) provided Cloud Profiling Radar payload. JPL also managed the CloudSat mission. JPL is a federally funded research and development facility managed by the California Institute of Technology for NASA. In addition to JPL and Ball, CloudSat’s partners included Colorado State University, the Canadian Space Agency, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. For more information, visit

Ball Corporation (NYSE: BLL) supplies innovative, sustainable packaging solutions for beverage, food and household products customers, as well as aerospace and other technologies and services primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ 14,500 people worldwide and reported 2013 sales of $8.5 billion. For more information, visit, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.