On Aqua, it is particularly important to obtain humidities under overcast conditions. This artist's concept animation shows the HSB instrument measuring humidities at four levels in the atmosphere, each level indicated by a separate color.

Aqua is positioned in a near-polar orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 705 km in synchronization with the Sun, with its path over the ground ascending across the equator at the same local time every day, approximately 1:30 p.m. Correspondingly, on the other side of its orbit, Aqua descends across the equator at approximately 1:30 a.m.

The Aqua MODIS is the second MODIS, the first having been launched in 1999 on board the Terra satellite. This artist's concept animation shows the MODIS instrument measuring clouds, land surface cover, snow cover on the land, and sea ice cover on the oceans.

A high-resolution artist rendering of the Aqua spacecraft on a black background.

Aqua was launched at 2:55 a.m. PDT on May 4, 2002 on board a Boeing Delta II 7920-10L launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. During launch, Aqua rose to an altitude of 680 kilometers, after which it was boosted to its final orbital altitude of 705 kilometers (438 miles). This animation shows the area surrounding the launch pad, the countdown, the rocket lift-off, and the spacecraft separation from the Delta rocket.