In a debut approach to measure the hurricanes, energy budget and weather of the Earth, NASA is all set to launch no less than six satellites soon. The small satellite missions will be in size raging from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine.
The development and launch costs will be low, thanks to the small size of the satellites, that will ride to space as a “secondary payload” on another mission’s rocket. This will provide an economical avenue for testing new technologies and conducting science.
“NASA is increasingly using small satellites to tackle important science problems across our mission portfolio,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington said.
“They also give us the opportunity to test new technological innovations in space and broaden the involvement of students and researchers to get hands-on experience with space systems,” Zurbuchen added.
Small-satellite technology has led to innovations in how scientists approach Earth observations from space. Five of the new missions will be launched during the next several months. With the launch of these satellites, innovative new approaches for studying the changing Earth will be demonstrated.
“NASA is expanding small satellite technologies and using low-cost, small satellites, miniaturised instruments, and robust constellations to advance Earth science and provide societal benefit through applications,” Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington said.
RAVAN, the Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes, is scheduled to be launched in November. RAVAN is a CubeSat that will demonstrate new technology for detecting slight changes in the energy budget of the Earth at the top of the atmosphere’s essential measurements for understanding greenhouse gas effects on climate.
Two CubeSats will be launched to the International Space Station in Spring of 2017 for a detailed look at clouds.
The ability of the scientists to study and understand clouds and their role in climate and weather will be improved with the help of the data obtained from the satellites.
Dong Wu at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland has developed the IceCube, which will use a new, miniature, high-frequency microwave radiometer to measure cloud ice.
Vanderlei Martins at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Baltimore has developed HARP. It will measure airborne particles and the distribution of cloud droplet sizes with a new method that looks at a target from multiple perspectives.
In early 2017, MiRaTA, the Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration mission, will be launched. It packs many of the capabilities of a large weather satellite into a spacecraft the size of a shoebox, according to principal investigator Kerri Cahoy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
MiRaTA’s miniature sensors will collect data on temperature, water vapour and cloud ice that can be used in weather forecasting and storm tracking.
(With inputs from PTI)