Formation flying in the A-Train

From: Allen Thomson (
Date: Sun Oct 16 2005 - 09:43:33 EDT

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    NASA Plans October Launch for Two More A-Train Satellites
    Aviation Week & Space Technology
    10/10/2005, page 69
    Frank Morring, Jr.
    NASA plans a launch as early as Oct. 26 of two more "cars" in the orbiting 
    "A-train," a close formation of Earth-observing spacecraft that deliver 
    complementary measurements of the same environmental phenomena.
    The two new satellites--CloudSat and Calipso (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and 
    Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations)--will track only 15 sec. apart 
    on the 483-mi. circular Sun-synchronous A-train orbit. That will allow them 
    to study the same column of atmosphere with different instruments.
    The $200-million CloudSat will come first in the sequence, trailing NASA's 
    Aqua water-measurement satellite by 30-120 sec. to complement its 
    measurements as well.
    When combined with the A-train constellation, which takes about 10 min. to 
    pass a given point above the atmosphere, the synergy is even broader. Aqua, 
    launched May 4, 2002, gathers data on the Earth's water cycle with six 
    instruments. Once they reach orbit, CloudSat and Calipso will add detail to 
    those measurements from their positions next in line.
    [Figure caption] A-train satellites in this artist's concept will be, from 
    left, Aura, Parasol, Calipso, CloudSat, Aqua and the Orbiting Carbon 
    Observatory, which will lead the formation after its planned launch in 2008. 
    Next up is a CloudSat/Calipso launch no earlier than Oct. 26.
    It will take [CloudSat and Calipso] 20-30 days to reach their final orbit 
    and begin the formation flying that will see them adjust position relative 
    to each other as often as once a day. Full operations should be reached 
    within about 45 days... 
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