Exploring the Architectural Tradespace of Severe Weather Monitoring Nanosatellite Constellations

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Nozomi Hitomi1, Daniel Selva1 and William J Blackwell2, (1)Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States, (2)MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA, United States
MicroMAS-1, a 3U nanosatellite developed by MIT/LL, MIT/SSL, and University of Massachusetts, was launched on July 13, 2014 and is scheduled for deployment from the International Space Station in September. The development of MicroMAS motivates an architectural analysis of a constellation of nanosatellites with the goal of drastically reducing the cost of observing severe storms compared with current monolithic missions such as the Precision and All-Weather Temperature and Humidity (PATH) mission from the NASA Decadal Survey.

Our goal is to evolve the instrument capability on weather monitoring nanosatellites to achieve higher performance and better satisfy stakeholder needs. Clear definitions of performance requirements are critical in the conceptual design phase when much of the project’s lifecycle cost and performance will be fixed. Ability to perform trade studies and optimization of performance needs with instrument capability will enable design teams to focus on key technologies that will introduce high value and high return on investment.

In this work, we approach the significant trades and trends of constellations for monitoring severe storms by applying our rule-based decision support tool. We examine a subset of stakeholder groups listed in the OSCAR online database (e.g., weather, climate) that would benefit from severe storm weather data and their respective observation requirements (e.g. spatial resolution, accuracy). We use ten parameters in our analysis, including atmospheric temperature, humidity, and precipitation. We compare the performance and cost of thousands of different possible constellations. The constellations support hyperspectral sounders that cover different portions of the millimeter-wave spectrum (50-60 GHz, 118GHz, 183GHz) in different orbits, and the performance results are compared against those of the monolithic PATH mission.

Our preliminary results indicate that constellations using the hyperspectral millimeter wave sounders can better satisfy stakeholder needs compared to the PATH mission. Well-architected constellations have increased coverage, improved horizontal resolution from lower orbits, and improved temporal resolution. Furthermore, this improved performance can be achieved at a lower cost than what is estimated for the PATH mission.