Overview of the NASA TROPICS Constellation Mission for Improved Observations of Tropical Cyclones

Antennas & Propagation, Geoscience & Remote Sensing and Microwave Theory and Techniques Societies

The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission, selected by NASA as part of the Earth Venture–Instrument (EVI-3) program, will provide nearly all-weather observations of 3-D temperature and humidity, as well as cloud ice and precipitation horizontal structure, at high temporal resolution to conduct high-value science investigations of tropical cyclones. TROPICS will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements (median refresh rate of approximately 40 minutes for the baseline mission) over the tropics that can be used to observe the thermodynamics of the troposphere and precipitation structure for storm systems at the mesoscale and synoptic scale over the entire storm lifecycle. The TROPICS constellation mission comprises six CubeSats in three low-Earth orbital planes. Each CubeSat will host a high performance radiometer to provide temperature profiles using seven channels near the 118.75 GHz oxygen absorption line, water vapor profiles using three channels near the 183 GHz water vapor absorption line, imagery in a single channel near 90 GHz for precipitation measurements (when combined with higher resolution water vapor channels), and a single channel at 205 GHz that is more sensitive to precipitation-sized ice particles. TROPICS spatial resolution and measurement sensitivity is comparable with current state-of-the-art observing platforms. Three launches for the TROPICS constellation mission to be provided by Astra are planned in March, April, and May 2022. NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program Office approved the separate TROPICS Pathfinder mission, which launched with 87 other small satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 into a sun synchronous orbit on June 30, 2021, in advance of the TROPICS constellation mission as a technology demonstration and risk reduction effort. The TROPICS Pathfinder mission will permit the checkout and optimization of all mission elements prior to the primary constellation mission. This presentation will describe the recent development progress for the TROPICS Pathfinder and constellation missions and discuss the potential for groundbreaking science and operational missions performed from relatively low-cost small satellite platforms.  Radiometric observations from the Pathfinder mission were first collected on August 2, 2021 and will be presented.

William J. Blackwell

Dr. William J. Blackwell is the Associate Leader of the Applied Space Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, where he leads a number of projects involving atmospheric remote sensing, including the development and calibration of airborne and space-borne microwave sensors, the retrieval of geophysical products from remote radiance measurements, and the application of electromagnetic, signal processing, and estimation theory.

Dr. Blackwell has served as associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing and the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) Magazine, cochair of the IEEE GRSS Remote Sensing Instruments and Technologies for Small Satellites working group, the NASA Aqua science team, and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Radio Frequencies. He is currently the principal investigator on the NASA TROPICS Earth Venture mission and the MicroMAS (Micro-sized Microwave Atmospheric Satellite) missions. He was previously the Integrated Program Office sensor scientist for the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder on the Suomi National Polar Partnership launched by NOAA in 2011 and the Atmospheric Algorithm Development team leader for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Microwave Imager/Sounder.

Dr. Blackwell received the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Technical Excellence Award in 2019 for his “innovative contributions to the science and practice of environmental monitoring.” He was selected as a 2012 recipient of the IEEE Region 1 Managerial Excellence in an Engineering Organization Award “for outstanding leadership of the multidisciplinary technical team developing innovative future microwave remote sensing systems.” In 2009, he was presented with the NOAA David Johnson Award for his work in neural network geophysical parameter retrievals and microwave calibration and is coauthor of “Neural Networks in Atmospheric Remote Sensing” (Artech House, 2009) and “Microwave Radar and Radiometric Remote Sensing” (Artech House, 2015). Dr. Blackwell has also been an author of more than 180 publications related to atmospheric remote sensing. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and an Associate Fellow of the AIAA.

Dr. Blackwell received the BEE degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the SM and ScD degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

IEEE seminar sponsored by AP-S, GRSS and MTT-S


Meeting ID: 883 3922 7442

Start Time:  6:00PM (Eastern Time)

Passcode: 711158

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