The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat Observatory and the Characterization of Cloud Properties

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Tim L. Neilsen, Space Dynamics Laboratory, North Logan, UT, United States, Jose-Vanderlei Martins, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, United States, Chad S Fish, Atmospheric and Space Technology Research Associates LLC, Boulder, CO, United States and Roberto Armando Fernandez Borda, Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, Greenbelt, MD, United States
The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter HARP instrument is a wide field-of-view imager that splits three spatially identical images into three independent polarizers and detector arrays. This technique achieves simultaneous imagery of the same ground target in three polarization states and is the key innovation to achieve high polarimetric accuracy with no moving parts. The spacecraft consists of a 3U CubeSat with 3-axis stabilization designed to keep the image optics pointing nadir during data collection but maximizing solar panel sun pointing otherwise. The hyper-angular capability is achieved by acquiring overlapping images at very fast speeds.

An imaging polarimeter with hyper-angular capability can make a strong contribution to characterizing cloud properties. Non-polarized multi-angle measurements have been shown to be sensitive to thin cirrus and can be used to provide climatology of these clouds. Adding polarization and increasing the number of observation angles allows for the retrieval of the complete size distribution of cloud droplets, including accurate information on the width of the droplet distribution in addition to the currently retrieved e­ffective radius.

The HARP mission is funded by the NASA Earth Science Technology Office as part of In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program. The HARP instrument is designed and built by a team of students and professionals lead by Dr. Vanderlei Martines at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The HARP spacecraft is designed and built by a team of students and professionals and The Space Dynamics Laboratory.