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ESA’s Aeolus wind mission will provide timely and accurate profiles of the world’s winds and further information on aerosols and clouds. The mission will advance our understanding of atmospheric dynamics. It will also provide much-needed information to improve weather forecasts and contribute to climate research. The satellite carries a single instrument: a Doppler wind lidar called Aladin. This sophisticated instrument is designed to probe the lowermost 30 km of the atmosphere along the satellite’s orbital path. Comprising a powerful laser, a large telescope and a very sensitive receiver, Aladin will be the first wind lidar in space. In cloud-free air the lidar will probe the atmosphere down to the surface, or to the top of dense cloud. Data on winds will be ingested in weather models to improve forecasts. Improved weather forecasts have considerable socio-economic benefits. For example, Aeolus will help to improve the prediction of mid-latitude cyclone systems.