List of Earth observation satellites

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

True color image of the Earth from space. This image is a composite image collected over 16 days by the MODIS sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite.
NASA Earth science satellite fleet as of September 2020, planned through 2023.
Earth observation satellite missions developed by the ESA as of 2019.

Earth observation satellites are earth-orbiting spacecraft with sensors used to collect imagery and measurements of the surface of the earth. These satellites are used to monitor short-term weather, long-term climate change, natural disasters. Earth observations satellites provide information for research subjects that benefit from looking at earth’s surface from above (such as meteorology, oceanography, terrestrial ecology, glaciology, atmospheric science, hydrology, geology, and many more). Types of sensors on these satellites include passive and active remote sensors. Sensors on earth observation satellites often take measurements of emitted energy over some portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (e.g., UV, visible, infrared, microwave, or radio).[1]

The invention of climate research through the use of satellite remote telemetry began in the 1960s through development of space probes to study other planets. During the U.S. economic decline in 1977, with much of NASA's money going toward the shuttle program, the Reagan Administration proposed to reduce spending on planetary exploration. During this time, new scientific evidence emerged from ice and sediment cores that Earth's climate had experienced rapid changes in temperature, running contrary to the previously held belief that the climate changed on a geological time scale. These changes increased political interest in gathering remote-sensing data on the Earth itself and stimulated the science of climatology.[2]


The lists below classify earth observation satellites in two large groups: satellites operated by government agencies of one or more countries (public domain) versus commercial satellites built and maintained by companies (private domain).[3] These lists focus on currently active missions, rather than inactive retired missions or planned future missions. However, some examples of past and future satellites are included. Active, inactive, or planned classifications are relevant as of 2021.

Public domain or government agency satellites[edit]

Active government satellites[edit]

Name Status Agency Launch [note 1] Description
ALOS-2 Active JAXA 2014
Alsat-2A and 2B Active Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) 2016
Amazônia-1 Active Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) 2021
Aqua Active NASA 2002 Carries six instruments to observe interactions among the four spheres for Earth's systems: oceans, land, atmosphere, and biosphere.[5]
ASNARO-2 Active JAXA 2018
Aura Active NASA 2004 Studies earth's ozone, air quality, and climate though observation of composition, chemistry, and dynamics of the atmosphere.[6]
Badr-B Active Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) 2001
CALIPSO Active NASA and CNES 2006 Studies thickness of clouds and aerosols for understanding of how much air pollution is present and changes in compositions in the atmosphere.[7]
Cartosat-1 Active Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) 2005
Cartosat-2A and 2B Active ISRO 2007
Cartosat-2C, 2D, 2E, and 2F Active ISRO 2016
Cartosat-3 Active ISRO 2019
CBERS-4 Active China National Space Administration (CNSA) and INPE 2014
Chollian 1, 2A, and 2B Active KARI 2010 Also known as Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellites (COMS). Used for communication, oceanography, and meteorological observation.
CloudSat Active NASA 2006 Uses radar to measure the altitude and properties of clouds.[8]
COSMO-SkyMed 1 to 4 Active Italian Space Agency (ASI) 2007 Used for defense and security assurance in Italy and other countries, seismic hazard analysis, environmental disaster monitoring, and agricultural mapping.
CryoSat-2 Active ESA 2010
CYGNSS Active NASA 2016 Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System.
DSCOVR Active NASA 2015 Deep Space Climate Observatory. Designed to study the Sun-lit side of Earth from the L1 Lagrange point.[9]
DubaiSat-1 and 2 Active Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) 2009
Elektro-L No. 1, 2, and 3 Active Russia's Roscosmos 2011
Fengyun 2D to 4A Active China Meteorological Administration 2006 Translated from Chinese, the word Fengyun means "wind cloud." Series 3 satellites are sun-synchronous and series 2 and 4 satellites are geosynchronous.
Formosat-5 Active Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO) 2017
Gaofen-2 Active CNSA 2014
Gaofen-3 Active CNSA 2016
GOES-16 and 17 Active NASA 2016 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Collects weather observations. See also: List of GOES satellites.
Gokturk-1 Active Turkish Ministry of National Defense 2016 Used for mapping and planning, landcover survey, geology, ecosystem monitoring, disaster management, environmental control, coastal zone management, and water resources.
Gokturk-2 Active Turkish Ministry of National Defense 2012 Used for mapping and planning, landcover survey, geology, ecosystem monitoring, disaster management, environmental control, coastal zone management, and water resources.[10]
GPM Active NASA and JAXA 2014 Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory. Used to study rainfall and snowfall.[11][12]
GOES-16, -17 Active NASA 2016 monitors weather for NOAA.
GRACE-FO Active NASA 2018[13][14] Gravity and climate. The mission will track changes in global sea levels, glaciers, and ice sheets, as well as large lake and river water levels, and soil moisture.[15]
GOSAT Active JAXA 2009 Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite. The first precise carbon dioxide observing satellite and precursor to OCO-2.
Himawari 8 and 9 Active Japan Meteorological Agency 2014 Similar to NASA's GOES satellites.
ICESat-2 Active NASA 2018 Measures ice sheet height changes for climate change diagnoses.[16][17]
IMS-1 Active ISRO 2008
ISS Active NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA 1998 The International Space Station (ISS) has long been used as a central satellite platform for other sensors, including Earth observation sensors. For example: LIS, SAGE III, TSIS-I, ECOSTRESS, GEDI, OCO-3, Diwata-1, and HICO.
Jason-3 Active NASA and CNES 2016 Radar altimeter used to monitor ocean surface height.
KhalifaSat Active MBRSC 2018 Also known as DubaiSat-3.
KOMPSAT-2 Active KARI 2006 Korean Multi-purpose Satellite-2. Also known as Arirang-2.
KOMPSAT-3, 3A, and 5 Active KARI 2012 Korean Multi-purpose Satellite-3, 3A, and 5. Also known as Arirang-3, 3A, and 5.
LAGEOS-1 and 2 Active NASA 1976 LAGEOS 1 launched in 1976 and LAGEOS 2 launched in 1992. Used as an orbiting benchmark for geodynamical studies.[18]
Landsat-7 Active NASA and USGS 1999 Images Earth's land surfaces and coastal areas with global coverage at high spatial resolution.[19]
Landsat-8 Active NASA and USGS 2013 Follow on to Landsat-7 with improved imager OLI and thermal sensor TIRS.
Landsat-9 Active NASA and USGS 2021 Follow on to Landsat-8 with OLI sensor and thermal sensor TIRS-2. Landsat-9 will extend the Landsat program to maintain the time series of these type of data.
Megha-Tropiques Active CNES and ISRO 2011
Meteor-M No. 1 and 2 Active Roscosmos 2009
Meteosat 8 Active EUMETSAT 2002 Also known as MSG 1.
MetOp A, B, and C Active NASA, ESA, and NOAA 2006 Meteorological Operational satellite. Part of the Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) program.
Mohammed VI-A and VI-B Active Arianespace and Morocco 2017 See also: Vega flight VV11 and Vega flight VV13
NigComSat-1R Active NASRDA 2009 DFH-4 satellite and replacement for the failed NigComSat-1
NigeriaSat-1 and 2 Active NASRDA 2003 Part of the worldwide Disaster Monitoring Constellation System
NOAA-15, 18, and 19 Active NASA, ESA, and NOAA 1998 Part of the Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) program.
NOAA-20 Active NASA and NOAA 2017 Part of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program.
Oceansat-2 Active ISRO 2009
OCO-2 Active NASA 2014 Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2. Part of the A-Train. The second precise carbon dioxide observing satellite after GOSAT.
PakTES-1A Active SUPARCO 2018
Paz Active Spain's Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial 2018
Pleiades 1A and 1B Active CNES 2011
PRISMA Active Italian Space Agency (ASI) 2019 PRecursore IperSpettrale della Missione Applicativa, in English: Hyperspectral PRecursor of the Application Mission.
PROBA-V Active ESA 2013 Continues the traditional Vegetation (the "V" in PROBA-V) products that began with the SPOT satellites.[20]
PRSS-1 Active SUPARCO 2018 Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite 1.
RCM Active CSA 2019 RADARSAT Constellation Mission.
RADARSAT-2 Active CSA 2007 C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR-C) satellite.
Resourcesat-1 and 2 Active ISRO 2003
Resurs-P No.1 and 2 Active Roscosmos 2013
SAOCOM Active CONAE 2018
SARAL Active ISRO 2013
Sentinel-1A and B Active ESA 2014 Constellation of two, each satellite carries C-SAR sensor. Part of the Copernicus Programme.
Sentinel-2A, B, and C Active ESA 2015 Constellation of three, each satellite carries MSI sensor for high spatial resolution imaging. Part of the Copernicus Programme.
Sentinel-3A and B Active ESA 2016 Constellation of two, each satellite carries sensors OLCI and SLSTR. Slightly coarser spatial resolution and more spectral bands than Sentinel-2. Part of the Copernicus Programme.
Sentinel-6A Active ESA 2020 Continuing the legacy of the Jason series missions, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will extend the records of sea level (sea surface height) and provide information for operational oceanography, marine meteorology, and climate studies.[21]
SMAP Active NASA 2015 Soil Moisture Active Passive. Measures soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state, which enhance understanding of processes that link water, energy, and carbon cycles to extend the capabilities of weather and climate models. Radar payload failed in July 2015, leaving a radiometer as the primary instrument of the mission.[22]
SORCE Active NASA 2003 monitors total output from the sun for understanding of earth's absorption of radiation energy.[16]
Suomi NPP Active NASA 2011 Part of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program.
TanDEM-X Active DLR 2010
Terra Active NASA 1999 Carries five instruments to observe the state of the atmosphere, land, and oceans, as well as their interactions with solar radiation and with one another.[23]
TerraSAR-X Active DLR 2007
THEOS Active GISTDA 2008 Also known as Thaichote.
TIMED Active NASA 2001 Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics, and Dynamics.
VNREDSat-1A Active VAST 2013 The Vietnamese Natural Resources, Environment and Disaster Monitoring Satellite.
VRSS-1 and 2 Active ABAE 2012 The Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite.
Sentinel-5 Precursor (S5P) Active ESA 2017
SMOS Active ESA 2009

Inactive government satellites[edit]

Name Status Agency Launch [note 1] Description
ACRIMSAT Inactive NASA 1999 Studied sun's UV to infrared energy output.[24] Contact was lost in December 2013.[25]
ADEOS-II Inactive NASDA, NASA, and CNES 2002
Arirang-1 Inactive KARI 1999
BelKA Inactive National Academy of Sciences of Belarus 2006 Failed to orbit.
BILSAT-1 Inactive TÜBITAK-UZAY 2003 Retired 2006
EO-1 Inactive NASA 2001 Earth Observing 1. Carried land-imaging technology and demonstrated new instruments and spacecraft systems for future missions.[26] Retired 2017.[27]
Envisat Inactive ESA 2002 Envisat stands for "Environmental satellite." Carried sensors such as MERIS and SCIAMACHY. Retired 2012.
Formosat-2 Inactive NSPO 2004 Retired 2016
GLORY Inactive NASA 2011 Designed to study aerosols, including black carbon, in addition to solar irradiance.[28] Failed launch.[29]
GOES-12 to 15 Inactive NASA 2001 Monitored weather for NOAA.[30]
GRACE-1 and 2 Inactive NASA and German Space Agency 2002 Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment. Tracked changes in global sea levels, glaciers, and ice sheets, as well as large lake and river water levels, and soil moisture.[31] Retired 2017.[32]
ICESat Inactive NASA 2003 Measured ice sheet height changes for climate change diagnoses.[33]
Jason-1 and 2 Inactive NASA and CNES 2001 Radar altimeters used to monitor ocean surface height.[34]
Lapan-TUBsat Inactive LAPAN 2007 Also known as LAPAN A1. Microsatellite based on DLR-Tubsat. Retired 2013.
Maya-1 Inactive Philippine Space Agency 2018 Retired 2020.
Munin Inactive SNSA 2000 Retired 2001.
OrbView-2 Inactive NASA 1997 Also known as Seastar. Carried sensor SeaWiFS. Monitored the color of earth's oceans.[35][36] Retired 2010.
QuikSCAT Inactive NASA 1997 Monitored weather using bursts of microwaves which measure wind speeds.[37]
Resurs-DK No.1 Inactive Roscosmos 2006
RISAT-1 Inactive ISRO 2012 Retired 2016.
SAC-D Inactive NASA and CONAE 2011 Carried the Aquarius instrument, which measured ocean salinity (salt concentration) which improves knowledge of heat transport and storage in the ocean.[1] Mission ended June 2015 due to satellite power supply failure.[38]
TOPEX/Poseidon Inactive NASA and CNES 1992 Part of NASA's Earth-Sun System Missions. Retired 2006.
TRMM Inactive NASA and JAXA 1997 Carried five instruments which uses radar and sensors of visible infrared light to closely monitor precipitation.[39]
UARS Inactive NASA 1991 Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. Part of NASA's Earth-Sun System Missions. Retired 2005.
Vanguard 2 Inactive NRL 1959 Vanguard 2E. The first weather satellite, designed to measure cloud cover. Part of Project Vanguard.

Planned government satellites[edit]

Name Status Agency Description
EarthCARE Planned ESA and JAXA Designed to study clouds and aerosols.[40]
Göktürk-3 Planned Turkish Ministry of National Defense Planned high resolution SAR satellite.
PACE Planned NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and ocean Ecosystem. Will measure hyperspectral and polarimetric characteristics of earth’s surface to monitor water resources, climate change, atmospheric health, terrestrial ecology, dust plumes, and ocean food webs.
SABIA-Mar Planned AEB and CONAE
SWOT Planned NASA Surface Water and Ocean Topography. Will measure sea surface heights and topography of oceans and freshwater bodies.[41]
FORUM Planned ESA Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring; a mission to measure Earth's outgoing radiation emissions across the entire far-infrared electromagnetic spectrum.

Private or commercial satellites[edit]

Active commercial satellites[edit]

Name Status Owner/Agency Launch [note 1]
Disaster Monitoring Constellation[42] Active DMC International Imaging 2009
EROS A and B Active ImageSat International 2000
Flock-1 Constellation Active Planet 2014
GeoEye-1 Active DigitalGlobe (Maxar) 2008
GRUS-1A to E Active Axelspace[43] 2018
ICEYE Active ICEYE 2018
Jilin-1 (Hyperspectral) Active Chang Guang Satellite Technology 2019
Jilin-1 (Optical Active Chang Guang Satellite Technology 2015
NovaSAR-S1[43] Active UK Space Agency and Surrey Satellite Technology 2018
PlanetScope-2[44] Active Planet 2016
SkySat-1 to 3 Active Planet 2013
SkySat-4 to 7 Active Planet 2016
SkySat-8 to 13 Active Planet 2017
SPOT 6 and 7 Active EADS Astrium Azercosmos, and CNES 2012
SuperView-1[45] Active Beijing Space View Technology 2018
TripleSat (UK-DMC 3)[46] [47] Active DMC International Imaging 2015
Vivid-i 1 to 5[48] Active Earth-i[49] 2018
WorldView-1 Active DigitalGlobe (Maxar) 2007
WorldView-2 and 3 Active DigitalGlobe (Maxar) 2009
Pleiades Neo 3 Active Airbus Defence and Space 2021
Pleiades Neo 4 Active Airbus Defence and Space 2021

Inactive commercial satellites[edit]

Name Status Owner/Agency Launch [note 1] End of mission
IKONOS Inactive DigitalGlobe (Maxar) 1999 2015
QuickBird Inactive DigitalGlobe (Maxar) 2001 2015
RapidEye Inactive Planet 2008 2020[50]
WorldView-4 Inactive DigitalGlobe (Maxar) 2016 2019

Planned commercial satellites[edit]

Name Status Owner/Agency Launch [note 1] End of mission Description
CO3D-1 to 4 Planned Airbus Defence and Space / CNES 2024 Based on Airbus S250 Optical product

See also[edit]

NASA Water and Energy Cycle satellite missions as of 2006.
NASA Earth science satellites as of 2017.

Related lists:


  1. ^ a b c d e For constellations of multiple satellites, launch year is listed here as the maiden launch year for the first satellite in the series.[4]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]