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A-train (satellite constellation)

File:A-Train w-Time2013 Web.jpg
As of 2014, the A-Train consists of six satellites and one no longer in the constellation.

The A-train (from Afternoon Train) is a satellite constellation of six Earth observation satellites of varied nationality in sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 705 kilometers above the Earth.[1]

The orbit, at an inclination of 98.14°, crosses the equator each day at around 1:30 pm solar time, giving the constellation its name; the "A" stands for "afternoon;"[2] and crosses the equator again on the night side of the Earth, at around 1:30 am.

They are spaced a few minutes apart from each other so their collective observations may be used to build high-definition three-dimensional images of the Earth's atmosphere and surface.



The train, as of July 2014,[3] consists of six active satellites:

  • OCO-2, lead spacecraft in formation, replaces the failed OCO and was launched for NASA on July 2, 2014.
  • GCOM-W1 "SHIZUKU", follows OCO-2 by 11 minutes, launched by JAXA on May 18, 2012.
  • Aqua, runs 4 minutes behind GCOM-W1, launched for NASA on May 4, 2002.
  • CloudSat, a cooperative effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, runs 2 minutes and 30 seconds behind Aqua, launched with CALIPSO on April 28, 2006.
  • CALIPSO, a joint effort of CNES and NASA, follows CloudSat by no more than 15 seconds, launched on April 28, 2006.
  • Aura, a multi-national satellite, lags Aqua by 15 minutes, crossing the equator 8 minutes behind due to different orbital track to allow for synergy with Aqua, launched for NASA on July 15, 2004.


  • PARASOL, launched by CNES on December 18, 2004 and moved to another (lower) orbit on December 2, 2009.[4]


  • OCO,[5] destroyed by a launch vehicle failure on February 24, 2009,[6] and was replaced by OCO-2.
  • Glory,[7] failed during launch on a Taurus XL rocket on March 4, 2011, and would have flown between CALIPSO and Aura.


  1. ^ «A-train Symposium October 2007: Constellation keeps its promises», CNESMAG, January 2008
  2. ^ NASA, Introducing the A-Train, 10.26.10 (accessed April 30 2012)
  3. ^ "Individual A-Train Missions". June 5, 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  4. ^ CNES News on Calipso
  5. ^ OCO homepage
  6. ^ Media Briefing Scheduled To Discuss Orbiting Carbon Observatory Mission
  7. ^ Glory homepage

External links