An Innovative CubeSAT Exploring Littoral Oceanographic and Atmospheric Dynamics (ICELOAD)

PI: Graber, Hans (Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science)
Co-PI(s): Coverstone, Victoria (University of Miami)
Start Year: 2019 | Duration: 2 years
Partners: University of Miami

Project Abstract:

This NOPP proposal requests funding to design and develop a CubeSat technology that will host a miniaturized synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for providing remotely sensed observations of the littoral ocean and associated atmospheric dynamics. The CubeSat-SAR will operate in VV polarization and have two antennas separated along a sufficient baseline to acquire interferometric image pairs that allow the determination of surface currents. In addition, the dual receive images can be used to extract wind and wave properties in the coastal ocean and detect frontal features and plumes from river outflows and tidal generation at spatial resolution of the approximately 3 m and surface currents to within 10 cm/s. About 3-5 images can be acquired per orbit.

While this initial demonstration CubeSat-SAR will be flown in a near-polar, sun-synchronous dawn/dusk orbit to maximize recharging of the batteries through solar panels, a constellation of these CubeSat-SARs will be feasible in the near future with the maturing of the proposed technology. Such a constellation of 10’s or 100’s of satellites would be placed in multiple orbit planes and equatorially inclined orbits to optimize persistence in monitoring and surveillance of denied coastlines on a global scale.

The Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS) of the University of Miami will be the primary ground station to downlink data and perform all processing and product generation and to uplink new tasking commands. The Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks will also be used to downlink data for near-polar orbits to improve near real-time delivery of SAR data products to customers.

These innovative CubeSat systems will specifically improve the Navy’s operational capabilities on a global scale with persistent monitoring and frequent data updates. ICELOAD will also provide the Navy with new expertise, and capacity, extending reach over the entire coastal domain, and will ensure U.S. sovereignty and freedom of the seas by contributing to maritime domain awareness. It will also support the U.S. Coast Guard and other U.S. Federal Agencies in Search and Rescue missions, environmental response in the coastal zone and aid in disaster response/defense support of Civil Authorities.

BAA: N00014-18-S-B007
BAA Topic: Topic 1: CubeSat Sensors for Investigating Littoral Ocean and Atmosphere Dynamics