Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration Mission (MiRaTA): Advancing Weather Remote Sensing with Nanosatellites

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 10:30 AM
232A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kerri Cahoy, MIT, Cambridge, MA

The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) is a 3U CubeSat mission sponsored by the NASA Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO). Microwave radiometer measurements and GPS radio occultation (GPSRO) measurements of all-weather temperature and humidity provide key contributions toward improved weather forecasting. The MiRaTA mission will validate new technologies in both passive microwave radiometry and GPS radio occultation: (1) new ultra-compact and low-power technology for multi-channel and multi-band passive microwave radiometers, and (2) new GPS receiver and patch antenna array technology for GPS radio occultation retrieval of both temperature-pressure profiles in the atmosphere and electron density profiles in the ionosphere. In addition, MiRaTA will test (3) a new approach to spaceborne microwave radiometer calibration using adjacent GPSRO measurements. The radiometer measurement quality can be substantially improved relative to present systems through the use of proximal GPSRO measurements as a calibration standard for radiometric observations, reducing and perhaps eliminating the need for costly and complex internal calibration targets. MiRaTA will execute occasional pitch-up maneuvers so that the radiometer and GPSRO observations sound overlapping volumes of atmosphere through the Earth's limb. To validate system performance, observations from both microwave radiometer (MWR) and GPSRO instruments will be compared to radiosondes, global high-resolution analysis fields, other satellite observations, and to each other using radiative transfer models. Both the radiometer and GPSRO payloads, currently at TRL5 but to be advanced to TRL7 at mission conclusion, can be accommodated in a single 3U CubeSat. The current plan is to launch from an International Space Station (ISS) orbit at ~400 km altitude and 52 inclination for low-cost validation over a ~90-day mission to fly in 2016. MiRaTA will demonstrate high fidelity, well-calibrated radiometric sensing from a nanosatellite platform, thereby enabling new architectural approaches for mission implementation at lower cost and risk with more flexible access to space.