The growth of the small satellite market and launch opportunities for these satellites is creating a new niche for earth
observations that contrasts with the long mission durations, high costs, and long development times associated with
traditional space-based earth observations. Low-cost, short-lived missions made possible by this new approach provide
an experimental platform for testing new sensor technologies that may transition to larger, more long-lived platforms.
The low costs and short lifetimes also increase acceptable risk to sensors, enabling large decreases in cost using
commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts and allowing early-career scientists and engineers to gain experience with these
projects. We are building a low-cost long-wave infrared spectral sensor, funded by the NASA Experimental Project to
Stimulate Competitive Research program (EPSCoR), to demonstrate ways in which a university's scientific and
instrument development programs can fit into this niche. The sensor is a low-mass, power-efficient thermal hyperspectral
imager with electronics contained in a pressure vessel to enable use of COTS electronics and will be compatible with
small satellite platforms. The sensor, called Thermal Hyperspectral Imager (THI), is based on a Sagnac interferometer
and uses an uncooled 320x256 microbolometer array. The sensor will collect calibrated radiance data at long-wave
infrared (LWIR, 8-14 microns) wavelengths in 230 meter pixels with 20 wavenumber spectral resolution from a 400 km
orbit. We are currently in the laboratory and airborne testing stage in order to demonstrate the spectro-radiometric
quality of data that the instrument provides.