Parasol is the second microsatellite in the Myriade series developed by CNES. It is carrying a wide-field imaging radiometer/polarimeter called POLDER (Polarization and Directionality of the Earth’s Reflectances), designed in partnership with the LOA atmospheric optics laboratory in Lille (CNRS-USTL: French national organisation for scientific research).
POLDER is designed to improve our knowledge of the radiative and microphysical properties of clouds and aerosols by measuring the directionality and polarization of light reflected by the Earth-atmosphere system.
Launched by an Ariane 5 G+ from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, Parasol has embarked on an expected two-year mission, flying in formation with Aqua and Aura (NASA), Calipso (NASA/CNES) and CloudSat (NASA/CSA) as part of the so-called A-Train. (image right, artist's rendition of A-Train, from nasa.gov)
These satellites, to be joined later by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) in 2008, will for the first time ever combine a full suite of instruments for observing clouds and aerosols, from passive radiometers to active lidar and radar sounders.
The PARASOL Scientific Objectives are to characterize the clouds and aerosols radiative and microphysical properties using as best as possible the data complementarity from the different sensors on board the AQUA platform, and those from the CALIPSO and CLOUDSAT missions.