Understanding the earth's carbon cycle is essential for diagnosing current and predicting future climates, which requires precise global measurements of atmospheric CO2 through space missions. The Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days, and Seasons (ASCENDS) space mission will provide accurate global atmospheric CO2 measurements to meet carbon science requirements. The joint team of NASA Langley Research Center and ITT Exelis, Inc. proposes to use the intensity-modulated, continuous-wave (IM-CW) laser absorption spectrometer (LAS) approach for the ASCENDS mission. Prototype LAS instruments have been developed and used to demonstrate the power, signal-to-noise ratio, precision and accuracy, spectral purity, and stability of the measurement and the instrument needed for atmospheric CO2 observations from space. The ranging capability from laser platform to ground surfaces or intermediate backscatter layers is achieved by transmitted range-encoded IM laser signals. Based on the prototype instruments and current lidar technologies, space LAS systems and their CO2 column measurements are analyzed. These studies exhibit a great potential of using IM-CW LAS system for the active space CO2 mission ASCENDS.