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Proceedings Paper

Overview of the NASA TROPICS CubeSat constellation mission
Author(s): W. J. Blackwell; S. Braun; B. Zavodsky; C. Velden; T. Greenwald; D. Herndon; R. Bennartz; M. DeMaria; G. Chirokova; R. Atlas; J. Dunion; F. Marks; R. Rogers; H. Christophersen; B. Annane
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Paper Abstract

Recent technology advances in miniature microwave radiometers that can be hosted on very small satellites has made possible a new class of affordable constellation missions that provide very high revisit rates of tropical cyclones and other severe weather. The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission was selected by NASA as part of the Earth Venture–Instrument (EVI-3) program and is now in development with planned launch readiness in late 2019. The overarching goal for TROPICS is to provide nearly all-weather observations of 3-D temperature and humidity, as well as cloud ice and precipitation horizontal structure, at high temporal resolution to conduct high-value science investigations of tropical cyclones (TCs). TROPICS will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements (median refresh rate better than 60 minutes for the baseline mission) over the tropics that can be used to observe the thermodynamics of the troposphere and precipitation structure for storm systems at the mesoscale and synoptic scale over the entire storm lifecycle. TROPICS will comprise a constellation of at least six CubeSats in three low-Earth orbital planes. Each CubeSat will host a high performance radiometer to provide temperature profiles using seven channels near the 118.75 GHz oxygen absorption line, water vapor profiles using three channels near the 183 GHz water vapor absorption line, imagery in a single channel near 90 GHz for precipitation measurements (when combined with higher resolution water vapor channels), and a single channel at 205 GHz that is more sensitive to precipitation-sized ice particles and low-level moisture. This observing system offers an unprecedented combination of horizontal and temporal resolution in the microwave spectrum to measure environmental and inner-core conditions for TCs on a nearly global scale and is a major leap forward in the temporal resolution of several key parameters needed for assimilation into advanced data assimilation systems capable of utilizing rapid-update radiance or retrieval data. Here, we provide an overview of the mission and an update on current status, with a focus on unique characteristics of the Cubesat system, recent performance simulations on a range of observables to be provided by the constellation, and a summary of science applications.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 September 2018
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10769, CubeSats and NanoSats for Remote Sensing II, 1076908 (18 September 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2320333
Show Author Affiliations
W. J. Blackwell, MIT Lincoln Lab. (United States)
S. Braun, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
B. Zavodsky, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
C. Velden, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison (United States)
T. Greenwald, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison (United States)
D. Herndon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison (United States)
R. Bennartz, Vanderbilt Univ. (United States)
M. DeMaria, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)
G. Chirokova, Colorado State Univ. (United States)
R. Atlas, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)
J. Dunion, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)
F. Marks, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)
R. Rogers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)
H. Christophersen, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)
B. Annane, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10769:
CubeSats and NanoSats for Remote Sensing II
Thomas S. Pagano; Charles D. Norton, Editor(s)

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