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There are three general steps to make a satellite operational, they are:
The first step of pre-launch is defining the scientific goal of the satellite. What is the satellite going to do? Pre-launch also includes designing the satellite and the sensor. At this stage scientists also do pre-launch testing and sensor calibration.
The launch is just that. But, how do you launch this satellite into space?
Post-launch or the Operations phase is when scientists begin to use the data that the remote sensor is collecting. Remember that sensor calibration from the pre-launch stage never really ends. Scientists use ground-truthing to compare what the sensor data shows and what is really taking place on the planet all the time.