Terra launched in a sun-synchronous orbit on 18 December 1999. Terra is the flagship of the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS), a series of spacecraft that represent a landmark step in NASA's role to observe Earth from the unique vantage point of space. Terra focuses on measurements identified by a consensus of U.S. and international scientists enabling research into the ways that Earth's lands, oceans, air, ice, and life function as a total environmental system.
The MODIS instrument provides high radiometric sensitivity (12 bit) in 36 spectral bands ranging in wavelength from 0.4 µm to 14.4 µm. The responses are custom tailored to the individual needs of the user community and provide exceptionally low out-of-band response. Two bands are imaged at a nominal resolution of 250 m at nadir, with five bands at 500 m, and the remaining 29 bands at 1 km. A ±55-degree scanning pattern at the EOS orbit of 705 km achieves a 2,330-km swath and provides global coverage every one to two days.
A high-performance passive radiative cooler provides cooling to 83K for the 20 infrared spectral bands on two HgCdTe Focal Plane Assemblies (FPAs). Novel photodiode-silicon readout technology for the visible and near infrared provide unsurpassed quantum efficiency and low-noise readout with exceptional dynamic range. Analog programmable gain and offset and FPA clock and bias electronics are located near the FPAs in two dedicated electronics modules, the Space-viewing Analog Module (SAM) and the Forward-viewing Analog Module (FAM). A third module, the Main Electronics Module (MEM) provides power, control systems, command and telemetry, and calibration electronics.
The system also includes four on-board calibrators as well as a view to space: a Solar Diffuser (SD), a v-groove Blackbody (BB), a Spectroradiometric calibration assembly (SRCA), and a Solar Diffuser Stability Monitor (SDSM).
Note: Performance goal is 30-40% better than required