J29.2 Leveraging CubeSat Technology to Address Nighttime Imagery Requirements over the Arctic

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 10:45 AM
Room 9AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
John J. Pereira, NESDIS, Silver Spring, MD; and D. Mamula, M. Caulfield, F. W. Gallagher III, D. Spencer, E. Petrescu, J. Ostroy, D. W. Pack, and A. LaRosa

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has begun planning for the future operational environmental satellite system, which will follow the current geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites. NOAA is conducting the NOAA Satellite Observing System Architecture (NSOSA) study to determine the most cost effective space segment architectures for performing NOAA weather, space weather, and environmental remote sensing (excluding land mapping) missions beyond the current programs of record (GOES-R, JPSS, etc.) out to about 2050. In support of the NSOSA study, NOAA is exploring the feasibility of near-term operational demonstrations of mature, space-proven technology. Such demonstrations have the potential not only for lowering the cost of future technology investments, but also to lessen the impact of critical data losses in the event of a launch failure or early on-orbit failure of a satellite. NOAA has been studying whether CubeSat technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), can be used to demonstrate the ability to measure three-dimensional profiles of global temperature and water vapor. These measurements are critical for the National Weather Service’s (NWS) weather prediction mission. NOAA is conducting design studies on Earth Observing Nanosatellites (EON) for microwave (EON-MW) and infrared (EON-IR) soundings, with MIT Lincoln Laboratory and NASA JPL, respectively. The next step is to explore the technology required for a CubeSat mission to address National Weather Service (NWS) nighttime imagery requirements over the Arctic. The concept is called EON-Day/Night Band (DNB). The DNB is a 0.5-0.9 micron channel currently on the operational Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument, which is part of the Suomi-National Polar-orbiting Partnership and Joint Polar Satellite System satellites. This band also has heritage from the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. The use of the S-NPP Day/Night Band at the NWS Alaska Region Forecast Offices has proven invaluable for situational awareness regarding critical weather situations involving fog and other weather phenomena hard to detect at night with other weather instruments. According to NWS users, the DNB is extremely useful during the long periods of darkness experienced by the Alaska Region during the cold season. Because the Alaska Region is a data sparse region, the DNB has also proven to be a tremendous asset to the creation of aviation and marine products. The DNB has also been used to identify volcanic eruptions, using the high resolution of the capability to identify low-light sources (lava/dome glow) that may be too small to see with current IR spatial resolution limits. Finally, moonlight enables the DNB to probe through clouds that are optically thin at visible wavelengths, while opaque at conventional thermal-infrared window wavelengths. This helps to reveal the details of sea ice, particularly during periods of extended darkness in the winter months.

EON-DNB will leverage experiments carried out by The Aerospace Corporation’s CUbesat MULtispectral Observation System (CUMULOS) sensor and other recent, related work. CUMULOS is a DoD-funded demonstration of COTS camera technology integrated as a secondary mission on the NASA JPL Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) mission. The camera payload includes: 1) a visible Si CMOS camera, 2) a short-wavelength infrared, InGaAs CMOS camera, and 3) a longwave infrared, vanadium oxide microbolometer. The EON-DNB project will focus on leveraging proven, advanced compact visible lens and focal plane camera technologies to meet NWS Alaska user needs for nighttime visible weather imagery. There are several areas of risk that need to be addressed for an operational demonstration of this mission. These include, but are not limited to: calibration, swath coverage, resolution, scene gain control, compact fast optical systems, downlink choices, and mission life. NOAA plans to conduct risk reduction efforts similar to efforts conducted for EON-MW and EON-IR. This paper will identify and explore EON-DNB risks and mitigation options.

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