Icecube: Spaceflight Validation of an 874-GHz Submillimeter Wave Radiometer for Ice Cloud Remote Sensing

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:32 AM
Dong Liang Wu, Jaime Esper, Negar Ehsan, Jeffrey R Piepmeier and Paul Racette, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
Ice clouds play a key role in the Earth’s radiation budget, mostly through their strong regulation of infrared radiation exchange. Submillimeter wave remote sensing offers a unique capability to improve cloud ice measurements from space. At 874 GHz cloud scattering produces a larger brightness temperature depression from cirrus than lower frequencies, which can be used to retrieve vertically-integrated cloud ice water path (IWP) and ice particle size. The objective of the IceCube project is to retire risks of 874-GHz receiver technology by raising its TRL from 5 to 7. The project will demonstrate, on a 3-U CubeSat in a low Earth orbit (LEO) environment, the 874-GHz receiver system with noise equivalent differential temperature (NEDT) of ~0.2 K for 1-second integration and calibration error of 2.0 K or less as measured from deep-space observations. The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is partnering with Virginia Diodes, Inc (VDI) to qualify commercially available 874-GHz receiver technology for spaceflight, and demonstrate the radiometer performance. The instrument (submm-wave cloud radiometer, or SCR), along with the CubeSat system developed and integrated by GSFC, will be ready for launch in two years. The instrument subsystem includes a reflector antenna, sub-millimeter wave mixer, frequency multipliers and stable local oscillator, an intermediate frequency (IF) circuit with noise injection, and data-power boards. The mixer and frequency multipliers are procured from VDI with GSFC insight into fabrication and testing processes to ensure scalability to spaceflight beyond TRL 7. The remaining components are a combination of GSFC-designed and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) at TRLs of 5 or higher. The spacecraft system is specified by GSFC and comprises COTS components including three-axis stabilizer and sun sensor, GPS receiver, deployable solar arrays, UHF radio, and 2 GB of on-board storage. The spacecraft and instrument are integrated and flight qualified through environmental testing at GSFC. The concept of operations is to fly the GSFC designed instrument/spacecraft in a LEO orbit and collect the 874-GHz radiance data for a period of at least 28+ days. Communication will be through the WFF’s UHF ground station. Mission Operations and data processing and validation will be conducted at GSFC.