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Predicted performance for the NASA TROPICS CubeSat Constellation Mission for tropical cyclone studies
Author(s): W. J. Blackwell
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Paper Abstract

There has been much recent progress with CubeSat-hosted microwave instrumentation for atmospheric sensing. The Microsized Microwave Atmospheric Satellite Version 2a (MicroMAS-2a), launched on January 11, 2018 and has successfully demonstrated temperature sounding using channels near 118 GHz and humidity sounding using channels near 183 GHz. Building on the MicroMAS-2 successes, the Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission, selected by NASA as part of the Earth Venture– Instrument (EVI-3) program, will 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. TROPICS will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements (median refresh rate of approximately 40 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 comprises a constellation of 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. TROPICS spatial resolution and measurement sensitivity is comparable with current state-of-the-art observing platforms. TROPICS flight hardware development is on track for a 2019 delivery with launches anticipated no earlier than 2021.

Paper Details

Date Published: 30 August 2019
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 11131, CubeSats and SmallSats for Remote Sensing III, 1113109 (30 August 2019); doi: 10.1117/12.2530178
Show Author Affiliations
W. J. Blackwell, MIT Lincoln Lab. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 11131:
CubeSats and SmallSats for Remote Sensing III
Thomas S. Pagano; Charles D. Norton; Sachidananda R. Babu, Editor(s)

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