List of Earth observation satellites
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).
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.
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). 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
Active government satellites
|Name||Status||Agency||Launch [note 1]||Description|
|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.|
|Aura||Active||NASA||2004||Studies earth's ozone, air quality, and climate though observation of composition, chemistry, and dynamics of the atmosphere.|
|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.|
|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|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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|
|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.|
|GPM||Active||NASA and JAXA||2014||Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory. Used to study rainfall and snowfall.|
|GOES-16, -17||Active||NASA||2016||monitors weather for NOAA.|
|GRACE-FO||Active||NASA||2018||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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Landsat-7||Active||NASA and USGS||1999||Images Earth's land surfaces and coastal areas with global coverage at high spatial resolution.|
|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.|
|OCO-2||Active||NASA||2014||Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2. Part of the A-Train. The second precise carbon dioxide observing satellite after GOSAT.|
|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.|
|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|
|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-6||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.|
|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.|
|SORCE||Active||NASA||2003||monitors total output from the sun for understanding of earth's absorption of radiation energy.|
|Suomi NPP||Active||NASA||2011||Part of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program.|
|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.|
|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.|
Inactive government satellites
|Name||Status||Agency||Launch [note 1]||Description|
|ACRIMSAT||Inactive||NASA||1999||Studied sun's UV to infrared energy output. Contact was lost in December 2013.|
|ADEOS-II||Inactive||NASDA, NASA, and CNES||2002|
|BelKA||Inactive||National Academy of Sciences of Belarus||2006||Failed to orbit.|
|EO-1||Inactive||NASA||2001||Earth Observing 1. Carried land-imaging technology and demonstrated new instruments and spacecraft systems for future missions. Retired 2017.|
|Envisat||Inactive||ESA||2002||Envisat stands for "Environmental satellite." Carried sensors such as MERIS and SCIAMACHY. Retired 2012.|
|GLORY||Inactive||NASA||2011||Designed to study aerosols, including black carbon, in addition to solar irradiance. Failed launch.|
|GOES-12 to 15||Inactive||NASA||2001||Monitored weather for NOAA.|
|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. Retired 2017.|
|ICESat||Inactive||NASA||2003||Measured ice sheet height changes for climate change diagnoses.|
|Jason-1 and 2||Inactive||NASA and CNES||2001||Radar altimeters used to monitor ocean surface height.|
|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.|
|OrbView-2||Inactive||NASA||1997||Also known as Seastar. Carried sensor SeaWiFS. Monitored the color of earth's oceans. Retired 2010.|
|QuikSCAT||Inactive||NASA||1997||Monitored weather using bursts of microwaves which measure wind speeds.|
|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. Mission ended June 2015 due to satellite power supply failure.|
|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.|
|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
|EarthCARE||Planned||ESA and JAXA||Designed to study clouds and aerosols.|
|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.|
Private or commercial satellites
Active commercial satellites
|Name||Status||Agency||Launch [note 1]|
|Disaster Monitoring Constellation||Active||DMC International Imaging||2009|
|EROS A and B||Active||ImageSat International||2000|
|GRUS-1A to E||Active||Axelspace||2018|
|Jilin-1 (Hyperspectral)||Active||Chang Guang Satellite Technology||2019|
|Jilin-1 (Optical||Active||Chang Guang Satellite Technology||2015|
|NovaSAR-S1||Active||UK Space Agency and Surrey Satellite Technology||2018|
|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||Active||Beijing Space View Technology||2018|
|TripleSat (UK-DMC 3) ||Active||DMC International Imaging||2015|
|Vivid-i 1 to 5||Active||Earth-i||2018|
|WorldView-2 and 3||Active||DigitalGlobe (Maxar)||2009|
Inactive commercial satellites
|Name||Status||Agency||Launch [note 1]||End of mission|
- Committee on Earth Observation Satellites
- Earth observation satellite
- First images of Earth from space
- Orbital spaceflight
- Imaging satellites
- Satellite imagery
- Timeline of Earth science satellites
- Unmanned space mission
- List of government space agencies
- List of orbits
- List of satellites in geosynchronous orbit
- List of uncrewed spacecraft by program
- Emery, William (2017). Introduction to satellite remote sensing : atmosphere, ocean, land and cryosphere applications. Amsterdam: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-12-809259-0. OCLC 1002847813.
- Jackson, Randal (2007). "Climate Change: NASA's Role". NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory\California Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011.
- Chuvieco, Emilio (2020). Fundamentals of satellite remote sensing : an environmental approach. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-429-01445-1. OCLC 1138019143.
- "International Astronomical Union". IAU. 12 August 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
- "qua Earth-observing satellite mission". Aqua.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "The Aura Mission". Aura.gsfc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "NASA - Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations". Calipso.larc.nasa.gov. Archived from the original on 16 March 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "CloudSat - Home". Cloudsat.atmos.colostate.edu. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "DSCOVR Space Weather Sentinel Reaches Finish Line." Spaceflight Now. Retrieved: 21 December 2016.
- "Göktürk-2". Tai.com.tr. 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
- "GPM Launch Information". NASA. Retrieved: 21 December 2016.
- "Precipitation Measurement Missions - An international partnership to understand precipitation and its impact on humankind". Gpm.gsfc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "GRACE-FO Mission". NASA/JPL. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- Weitering, Hanneke (22 May 2018). "SpaceX Launches Twin NASA Probes to Track Earth's Water (and Satellites Hitch a Ride)". Space.com. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
- "GRACE Tellus: GRACE-FO". GRACE Tellus. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- "Home". SMAP. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- Neumann, Tom. "NASA: ICESat-2". Icesat.gsfc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Satellite LAGEOS-1". 4 December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 December 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Landsat Science". Landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "PROBA-V: The Small Satellite for Vegetation Monitoring". PROBA-V. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
- "Sentinel 6 Launch Lights Up Central Coast Skies; Mission Will Measure Rising Sea Levels". San Francisco Bay Area News, Weather, Sports From KPIX – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of SF. 21 November 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "NASA Soil Moisture Radar Ends Operations, Mission Science Continues." NASA. Retrieved: 21 December 2016.
- "Welcome to the Home Page of the SOlar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE)". Lasp.colorado.edu. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 December 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Sun sets for a NASA solar monitoring spacecraft." Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved: 9 August 2015.
- "EO-1 Home - Earth Observing Mission 1". Eo1.gsfc.nasa.gov. Archived from the original on 3 December 1998. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Pioneering Earth Observation Satellite Retired by NASA". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved: 3 April 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 September 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Amos, Jonathan (4 March 2011). "Nasa Glory mission ends in failure". BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 November 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Home". GRACE Tellus. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Decay Data: GRACE-1". Space-Track. 10 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
- Neumann, Tom. "NASA: ICESat & ICESat-2". Icesat.gsfc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "OSTM: Home Page". Sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 December 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "CLARREO". Clarreo.larc.nasa.gov. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "QuikSCAT". Winds.jpl.nasa.gov. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Aquarius end of mission announcement". Gary Lagerloef and Sandra Torrusio. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- "Terra: the EOS Flagship". Terra.nasa.gov. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "ESA's cloud, aerosol and radiation mission". Esa.int. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Laser Sounder for Measurements of Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations for the ASCENDS Mission" (PDF). Esto.nasa.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Satellite Constellations from". SSTL.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
- "Axelspace – Space Technology". Axelspace – Space Technology. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "PlanetScope". Sentinel Hub. 25 August 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "SuperView-1: Satellite Imagery, Overview, And Characteristics". EARTH OBSERVING SYSTEM. 1 January 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "TripleSat Satellite Sensor". Satellite Imaging Corp. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "DMC 3 (Triplesat) / SSTL-S1 1, 2, 3, 4 / Beijing 2-1, ..., 2-4". Gunter's Space Page. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "VIVID-i". Earth-i. 29 May 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "Earth-i launches first-of-a-kind satellite". Room, The Space Journal. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- "RapidEye Constellation to be Retired in 2020". Planet. 16 January 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- Kramer, Herbert J. (2002). Observation of the Earth and Its Environment. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-56294-5. ISBN 978-3-642-62688-3.