The high cost of imaging and sounding from space warrants exploration of new methods for obtaining the required information, including changing the spectral band sets, employing new technologies and merging instruments. In some cases we must consider relaxation of the current capability. In others, we expect higher performance. In general our goal is to meet the VIIRS and CrIS requirements while providing the enhanced next generation capabilities: 1) Hyperspectral Imaging in the Vis/NIR bands, 2) High Spatial Resolution Sounding in the Infrared bands. The former will improve the accuracy of ocean color products, aerosols and water vapor, surface vegetation and geology. The latter will enable the high-impact achieved by the current suite of hyperspectral infrared sounders to be achieved by the next generation high resolution forecast models. We examine the spectral, spatial and radiometric requirements for a next generation system and technologies that can be applied from the available inventory within government and industry. A two-band grating spectrometer instrument called the Moderate-resolution Infrared Imaging Sounder (MIRIS) is conceived that, when used with the planned NASA PACE Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) will meet the vast majority of CrIS and VIIRS requirements in the all bands and provide the next generation capabilities desired. MIRIS resource requirements are modest and the Technology Readiness Level is high leading to the expectation that the cost and risk of MIRIS will be reasonable.
The NOAA/NESDIS has been conducting studies to see if user requirements can be met by a single constellation of
satellites that would provide high spatial, temporal and spectral resolution data every 15 minutes every where in post
GOES-R and NPOESS time frame. The current Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) at an
altitude of 35,000 km provide observations up to local zenith angles of 75 degrees for monitoring severe weather in real
time. The Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) at an altitude of 833 km complement monitoring
in the polar region at a regular time interval. The POES and DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) satellites
will be merged into a new satellite system referred to as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite
System (NPOESS) which is under development.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been supporting this study by analyzing characteristics of Medium Earth Orbits
(MEO) as an observation venue to meet user requirements. An optimal altitude of 10,400 km has been selected based on
the manageable radiation impacts on the electronics. This paper presents the initial encouraging results in several areas such as: orbit selection, constellation, coverage, revisit time analyses, communications options, scan mechanisms, and
Today most operational Earth observing satellites reside in low Earth orbits (LEO) at less than 1,000 km altitude, and in geostationary Earth orbits (GEO) at ~35,800 km altitude. These orbits have been the venues of choice for observations, albeit for very different reasons. LEO provides high spatial resolution with low temporal resolution while GEO provides for low spatial resolution, but high temporal resolution. NOAA utilizes both venues for their environmental satellites. The NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) reside in LEO Sun synchronous orbits at approximately 830 km in altitude, as do the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites of the Department of Defense. In the near future the POES and DMSP satellites will be merged into a new satellite system referred to as the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). The NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system, as the name specifies, resides at the other preferred observational venue of GEO. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), under contract to NOAA, has been studying the characteristics of medium Earth orbits (MEO), at altitudes between 1000 and 35,800 km, as an observation venue to answer the question as to whether MEO might capture the attributes of the two traditional venues. This on-going study initially focused on determining the optimal altitude for MEO observations, through numerous trade studies involving altitude, instrument complexity, coverage, radiation environment, data temporality, revisit time, data rates, downlink requirements and other parameters including cost and launch complexity. Once the optimal altitude of 10,400 km had been determined the study proceeded to explore single through multiple MEO satellite constellation performance capabilities using two instrument types, a visible through infrared (IR) imager and IR sounder as the satellites’ payload. The MEO performance capabilities were compared to comparable LEO and GEO satellite constellation capabilities. This portion of the study concluded that indeed for global coverage a constellation of satellites operating in the MEO venue could capture the attributes of those operating in the LEO and GEO venues. Three 8-satellite constellations configurations - Walker, ICO, and Equatorial-Polar (EP) - then were studied to develop more constellation coverage statistics including robustness to individual satellite failure. That study phase concluded that the EP constellation was superior to both the ICO and Walker configurations. The study is presently examining if, and to what extent, the equatorial portion of the EP constellation might provide substantive supplemental data to that collected by the NPOESS and GOES satellite constellations.