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About Terra

Approximately the size of a small school bus, the Terra satellite carries five instruments that take coincident measurements of the Earth system:

Terra is in a circular sun-synchronous polar orbit that takes it from north to south (on the daylight side of the Earth) every 99 minutes.

PostPropLeakW_smallSpacecraft Quick Facts:

  • Launch Date: December 18,1999
  • Size: the spacecraft bus is 6.8 m long and 3.5 m across.
  • Weight: 5,190 kg (11,442 lbs.) at launch.



Orbit Quick Facts: 

  • Altitude: 705 kilometers (438 miles) above Earth’s surface
  • Inclination: 98.5 degrees
  • Period: 99 minutes (16 orbits per day)
  • Equatorial crossing: 10:30 a.m., descending node

Terra Status:

  • Operating instruments: ASTER, CERES, MODIS, MISR, and MOPITT are operating well.  ASTER Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) data is unavailable.
  • Current life expectancy: Terra  has far exceeded its design life and has a strong chance of operating successfully into the early 2020s.
  • Current systems issues: None.
  • Processed Terra data are available through several NASA data centers.

Greater detail on the status of the Terra spacecraft, instruments, and mission are presented Terra Status File: