The PAMELA experiment will be launched on-board of a polar orbiting Resurs DK1 satellite in mid-2003. The primary objective of PAMELA is to measure the flux of antiprotons (80 MeV - 190 GeV) and positrons (50 MeV - 270 GeV) in the cosmic radiation. The wide energy range and large statistics (O(10 4) antiprotons and O(10 5) positrons) will allow sensitive tests of cosmic ray propagation models and searches for exotic sources of antiparticles, such as cold dark matter neutralino annihilations. PAMELA is built around a permanent magnet spectrometer equipped with double-sided silicon detectors and surrounded by an active veto shield. This is complemented by a proportional straw tube / carbon fibre radiator transition radiation detector and a silicon-tungsten imaging calorimeter which is augmented by a scintillator shower tail catcher. A time-of-flight system provides the primary experimental trigger. The status of PAMELA is presented along with main results from simulations and test-beam studies.