Has an orbiting weather satellite, similar to those used around Earth, been sent to other planets to study their atmospheric weather?

I am curious if a weather satellite is generic enough to serve the same purpose on other planets. I would guess the main differences would be in the weather models (software) that process the data, not the satellite and sensors.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The electronic system for data uplink and downlink useful for an Earth orbit will not be sufficient for an orbit around a far planet. The huge distance would require totally different antennas, transmitters and receivers. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jun 15, 2018 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe I think that's overstating the situation a little bit. Yes a satellite like GOES-16 or -17 (see Popular Science's NASA’s new weather satellite will show us wildfires and storms in insane detail) would use quite a bit of bandwidth and a link from Mars would be difficult, but a moe modest weather satellite, with less "insane detail", would not be such a problem. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 16, 2018 at 1:05

2 Answers 2


Well, one's been "sent to (an)other planet(s)." It just didn't arrive safely.

I'm talking about the Mars Climate Observer.

The primary instruments were a radiometer:

a nine-channel limb and nadir scanning atmospheric sounder designed to vertically profile atmospheric temperature, dust, water vapor and condensate clouds and to quantify surface radiative balance

and a color imager with two cameras -

one of which takes limb observations to detail the atmospheric structure of clouds and hazes at Å 4 km resolution, the other of which has ten spectral channels from 425 to 1000 nm which provide the ability to discriminate both atmospheric and surface features on the basis of composition.

It was destroyed by a units problem. Faster, maybe, cheaper, maybe, better? No.


Not dedicated weather satellites, no. But several planetary orbiters did/do have studying their host planet's weather as one of their objectives.

  • Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have done this continuously 1 since MGS' arrival in 1997.

Monitor global weather and the thermal structure of the atmosphere.
Study interactions between Mars' surface and the atmosphere by monitoring surface features, polar caps that expand and recede, the polar energy balance, and dust and clouds as they migrate over a seasonal cycle.

Studying the dynamic behavior of Saturn's atmosphere at cloud level.

Weather satellites basically are just cameras. They're tuned to specific wavelengths optimized to gather meteorological data. AFAIK most planetary probes don't have that, but they do have cameras that can be used to learn about the weather, albeit in less detail than is possible from e.g. GOES data.

1: see also Emily Lakdawalla's book 'The design and engineering of Curiosity'.

  • $\begingroup$ That is a helpful clarification. I was thinking they had more sensors on them, but that makes sense. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2018 at 0:43

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