Rainbow: a multistatic space lidar constellation

Lead PI: Damien Josset, Naval Research Laboratory Stennis
Start Year: 2018 | Duration: 2 years
Partners: NASA Langley Research Center, FiberTek Inc

The Rainbow multistatic space lidar constellation (Rainbow) is a collaboration between the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) and Fibertek, Inc. As such, it is a team effort including two federal government entities and a small business private company.

Rainbow will be the first cubesat lidar and the first space lidar constellation. It builds on the technology and scientific advances coming from previous NASA missions (CALIPSO, ICESAT- 2, Glory). Rainbow will provide invaluable information about surface height, surface vector winds, sea-ice, coastal land surface and liquid water clouds characterization. Depending of the final system characteristics, it could also contribute to our knowledge of coastal area turbidity and ecology. This project will provide a range of data that will support the modeling efforts of several
U.S. Federal Agencies (Navy, NASA and NOAA).

Rainbow uses an innovative concept of cubesat lidar constellation formation that is designed to maximize the scientific return of the mission. The laser and the receiver will be separately located on two 12U platforms, flying as a constellation, to allow for the measurement of the light scattered by clouds and the ocean simultaneously at different phase angles.

The top level objectives of this phase A are focused on testing and validating key concepts and technologies, critical for the success of a cubesat lidar constellation mission. The objectives are scoped such that they can be completed over a two year period and within the budget of the award while leveraging existing projects and hardware. The deliverable of this phase A will provide the fundamental understanding through model and measurement necessary to build, launch and operate the first ever CubeSat lidar satellite constellation with the best scientific outcome for the selected number of satellites.

The objectives of Rainbow are to:

  1. Develop and characterize a miniaturized space lidar system within the CubeSat Design Specifications (l 2U).
  2. Determine the scientific outcome related to the signal to noise ratio of the miniaturized space lidar with one viewing angle.
  3. Develop constellation mission models with up to 3 viewing angles and 3 overpass times. We will determine the added value of such concepts on the scientific and operational outcome of the mission as well as the associated costs.