Developing a Compact 670-GHz Polarmetric Radiometer for CubeSat with Novel Spatial Light Modulator Imaging System

Lead PI: Paul Racette, NASA Goddard
Start Year: 2018 | Duration: 2 year
Partners: Virginia Diodes Inc

Ice clouds play an essential role in cloud-precipitation processes within severe weather systems that affect coastal regions. Every year severe weather affects coastal regions causing billions of dollars in damage, loss of life and security threats around the world. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) proposes to partner with Virginia Diodes, Inc (VOi) to develop a compact, modular 670-GHz polarimetric radiometer (PR-670) to provide global observations of cloud ice and its microphysical properties using cubesats, thus enabling a low-cost means of obtaining critically-needed data for understanding cloud-precipitation processes.
At the core of the PR-670 is a highly integrated and compact polarimetric receiver that is being developed under a Phase 2 SBIR contract with VOi. The polarimetric receiver, integrated into an impressively small 3.5 x 3.5 x 1.9 cm3 contains an orthomode transducer, RF low-noise amplifiers, LO multiplication chain, mixers and first stage of IF amplification. The product of this SBIR will be made into a brassboard radiometer system comprised of VOi’s polarimetric receiver, rotating antenna reflector and scan mechanism. Radiometric calibration will be achieved using an internal, through-the-antenna calibration black body target and space view. The starting TRL of the polarimetric receiver is 4.Through environmental testing of the PR-670 and characterization of the calibration over a range of operating temperatures the radiometer will achieve a TRL 6 at the conclusion of the project. We anticipate the brassboard radiometer developed under this Step 1 would be used for an eventual low-cost flight mission demonstration. A mission system study will be conducted that will define instrument, spacecraft and mission requirements for a science mission to meet NOPP needs.
The project leverages NASA’ s successful IceCube 883-GHz; similarly, GSFC partnered with VOi to fly their 887 GHz receiver technology, which was developed under a Phase 2 SBIR project. The outcome of the lceCube mission is a low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf receiver at TRL 7 that is ready and available for insertion into a spaceflight science mission. At the conclusion of a Step 2 award, the PR-670 will be at TRL 7 and a cost-effective capability ready for insertion into a spaceflight mission.
The overall project will be managed by the Microwave Instrument Technology Branch (MITB) at GSFC. VOi is a key industrial partner providing the core enabling technology. GSFC and VOi have successfully partnered for 20 years in developing highly novel receiver technologies and instruments for atmospheric remote sensing.