Current uncertainties in the effects of aerosols and clouds on the Earth radiation budget limit our understanding of the climate system and the potential for global climate change. The CALIPSO satellite will use an active lidar together with passive instruments to provide vertical profiles of aerosols and clouds and their properties which will help address these uncertainties. CALIPSO will fly in formation with the EOS Aqua and CloudSat satellites and the other satellites of the Aqua constellation. The acquisition of simultaneous and coincident observations will allow numerous synergies to be realized by combining CALIPSO observations with complementary observations from other platforms. In particu-lar, cloud observations from the CALIPSO lidar and the CloudSat radar will be complementary, together encompassing the variety of clouds found in the atmosphere, from thin cirrus to deep convective clouds. CALIPSO is being developed within the framework of a collaboration between NASA and CNES and is scheduled for launch in 2004.© (2003) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.