Thomas S. Pagano: Demonstrating Technologies for Hyperspectral Infrared Remote Sensing from Space on a CubeSat

A plenary talk from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2017.

24 August 2017

CubeSats are attracting growing support at NASA due to their low cost and superior skills in tasks such as predicting global weather, says Thomas Pagano of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (USA) in this plenary talk.

CubeSats offer a low cost platform for remote sensing and in-situ measurements in space. Not only is the cost of the spacecraft low, but also the cost of the launch since typically CubeSats are secondary payloads to the primary satellite being launched. Despite the low available volume, mass and power and a typically less-than-ideal orbit, the platform can be ideal for demonstrating technology and even achieving certain science quality measurements.

NASA is developing new technologies for use by CubeSats in vital weather prediction and a variety of other applications. In his role as principal investigator for the CubeSat Infrared Atmospheric Sounder (CIRAS) program, whose inaugural launch on a commercial satellite is expected in 2019, Pagano is working on technology to measure radiation in the mid-wave infrared spectrum. CIRAS partners include Ball Aerospace, BAE Systems in Colorado, IR Cameras, and Blue Canyon Technologies.

Pagano suggests that with expanding interest in CubeSats and smaller NanoSats, the sector may seek to hold a full CubeSat conference every year at SPIE Optics and Photonics. For now, the next one is set for 2018.

NASA is starting to complement its old weather satellite program with the much smaller space hardware inside CubeSats, which offer improved methods and new applications for drought prediction, monitoring weather hazards for the aviation industry, or monitoring environmental shifts that may contribute to vector-borne diseases such as malaria.

Thomas S. Pagano is the Project Manager for the AIRS/AMSU/HSB Suite of instruments on the EOS Aqua Spacecraft and the Principal Investigator of the CubeSat Infrared Atmospheric Sounder (CIRAS). He was the lead engineer responsible for the calibration of the AIRS instrument in orbit and the Chief Systems Engineer on the MODIS instrument. He holds 2 US patents and is author of numerous papers on space remote sensing systems.

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