Development of a High Resolution Passive Microwave 3U Cubesat for High Resolution Temperature Sounding and Imaging at 118 GHz
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:08 AM
PolarCube is a 3U CubeSat based on the CU ALL-STAR bus hosting an eight-channel passive microwave scanning spectrometer operating at the 118.7503 GHz (1-) O2 resonance. The anticipated launch date is in late 2015. It is being designed to operate for 12 months on orbit to provide global 118-GHz spectral imagery of the Earth over a full seasonal cycle. The mission will focus on the study of Arctic vertical temperature structure and its relation to sea ice coverage, but include the secondary goals of assessing the potential for convective cloud mass detection and cloud top altitude measurement and hurricane warm core sounding. The principles used by PolarCube for sounding and cloud measurement have been well established in number of peer-reviewed papers, although measurements using the 118 GHz oxygen line over the dry polar regions (unaffected by water vapor) have never been demonstrated from space. The PolarCube channels are selected to probe clear-air emission over vertical levels from the surface to the lower stratosphere. Operational spaceborne microwave soundings have available for decades but using lower frequencies (50-57 GHz) and from higher altitudes. While the JPSS ATMS sensor provides global coverage at ~32 km resolution PolarCube will improve on this resolution by a factor of two (~16 km), thus facilitating a key science goal of mapping sea ice concentration and extent while obtaining temperature profile data. Additionally, we seek to correlate freeze-thaw line data from the NASA SMAP mission with atmospheric temperature structure to help understand the relationship between clouds, temperature, and surface energy fluxes during seasonal transitions. PolarCube will also provide the first demonstration of a very low cost passive microwave sounder that if operated in a fleet configuration would have the potential to fulfill the goals of the Precipitation Atmospheric Temperature and Humidity (PATH) mission, as defined in the NRC Decadal Survey.