Crosslink Radio Occultation for the Remote Sensing of Planetary Atmospheres

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Anthony J Mannucci, Chi O Ao, Sami Asmar, Charles D Edwards, Daniel S Kahan, Meegyeong Paik, Xiaoqing Pi and Walton Williamson, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Radio occultation utilizing deep space telecommunication signals has been used with great success in the profiling of planetary atmospheres and ionospheres since the 1960s. A shortcoming of this technique, however, is the limited temporal and spatial sampling that it provides. We consider a different approach where radio occultation measurements are taken between two spacecraft orbiting an extra-terrestrial body. Such “crosslink” radio occultations between the Global Positioning System satellites and low-earth orbiting spacecraft have been routinely acquired to provide global observations of the Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere that are used for weather forecast, climate analysis, and space weather applications. The feasibility of applying this concept to other planets has recently been demonstrated for the first time, where crosslink occultation measurements have been acquired between the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. These measurements leverage the proximity link telecommunication payloads on each orbiter, which are nominally used to provide relay communication and navigation services to Mars landers and rovers. In this presentation, we will describe the Mars crosslink experiments and the corresponding data analysis in detail. In addition, we will discuss how the crosslink occultation concepts can be effectively applied in future space exploration missions.