New Small Satellite Capabilities for Microwave Atmospheric Remote Sensing

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 9:00 AM
232A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
William J. Blackwell, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA; and K. Cahoy

Nanosatellite missions flying microwave radiometers for high-resolution microwave sounding are quickly proliferating. Microwave instrumentation is particularly well suited for implementation on a very small satellite, as the sensor requirements for power, pointing, and spatial resolution (aperture size) can be accommodated by a nanosatellite platform. The first mission, the Microsized Microwave Atmospheric Satellite (MicroMAS), will demonstrate temperature sounding in nine channels near 118 GHz. MicroMAS is currently onboard the International Space Station awaiting deployment for a 100-day mission. The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) CubeSat will demonstrate multi-band atmospheric sounding and co-located GPS radio occultation. MiRaTA will launch in early 2016, and will fly a tri-band sounder (60, 183, and 207 GHz) and a GPS radio occultation (GPS-RO) sensor comprising a modified COTS receiver and antenna patch array. Other CubeSat microwave sounding missions to launch in the next few years include RACE (JPL/UT), IceCube (NASA GSFC), and PolarCube (CU).

We present recent work to develop and demonstrate nanosatellite technologies for Earth atmospheric remote sensing using microwave radiometry, and we discuss approaches for transitioning these new technologies into operational use in two contexts: 1) “gap filling” missions to continue the operational data record for NOAA and 2) new research constellation missions to provide unprecedented measurement capabilities for NASA. We will present analysis of required ground and data segments, strategies for launching and formulating the constellation and coordinating mission operations, and suggestions for standardizations to allow a “community constellation” whereby new satellites could be continuously added to the constellation in an ad hoc fashion.