The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP, pronounced the same as “calliope”) is a spaceborne two-wavelength polarization lidar that has been acquiring global data since June 2006. CALIOP provides high resolution vertical profiles of clouds and aerosols, and has been designed with a very large linear dynamic range to encompass the full range of signal returns from aerosols and clouds. CALIOP is the primary instrument carried by the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite, which was launched on April 28, 2006. CALIPSO was developed within the framework of a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency, CNES. Initial data analysis and validation intercomparisons indicate the quality of data from CALIOP meets or exceeds expectations. This paper presents a description of the CALIPSO mission, the CALIOP instrument, and an initial assessment of on-orbit measurement performance.