NASA has awarded funding for nine new investigations for technology development of innovative Earth Science remote-sensing instruments, under the Instrument Incubator Program (IIP), to support the mission to understand and protect our home planet.

The selected proposals focus on high-priority measurement areas of Earth’s coastal region; Earth’s interior processes and motions; sea-ice thickness and snow cover; pollution effects; and precipitation, evaporation and cycling of water. A proposal also focused on innovative technologies supporting measurement concepts from the L1 or L2 Lagrangian points (the points in space where the opposing pull of the Earth reduces the effective pull of the Sun; L1 being on the sun-facing side of Earth and L2 on the opposite or dark side of the Earth).

The main purpose of IIP is to invest in research and
development of new and innovative technologies to support the NASA Earth Science Enterprise goals and objectives. IIP focuses on creating mature technologies leading to smaller, less resource-intensive and less expensive flight instruments that can be built quickly and efficiently.

The technologies selected include hyperspectral grating spectrometer technologies for measuring coastal region features and key chemical constituents in the troposphere that contribute to pollution. Advanced grating spectrometer technologies will also be studied for measuring atmospheric temperature and moisture from geosynchronous orbit.

Also selected are microwave radiometer and advanced radar technologies to measure sea-ice thickness, snow cover and rainfall, to support understanding cycling of Earth’s fresh water, variation of its climate, and monitoring of volcanoes, earthquakes and hazardous weather from geosynchronous orbits. An innovative investigation will explore technologies to place a solar-occultation instrument at the L2 Lagrangian point, about 1,500,000 km on the dark side of the Earth, to perform continuous profiling of many trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Technologies to measure fine deformations of the Earth’s crust, using interferometric synthetic aperture radars, and to measure minute changes in Earth’s gravitation field will also be developed. The objective is better understanding of natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, sea level change and severe storms.

The selected advanced technology projects will allow the next generation of orbiting environmental research satellites to observe Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and continents in minutes and seconds compared to days and hours. The enhanced temporal coverage compliments the enhanced spatial resolution that has been the hallmark of NASA’s Earth Science remote sensing technologies since the dawn of the space age.

The investigations selected by NASA’s Office of Earth Science are:

Scott Hensley (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.): Rapid-Repeat Deformation Measurement Capability for the NASA AIRSAR System

Jay Herman (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, Md.): SVIP: Solar Viewing Interferometer Prototype for Observations of Earth Greenhouse Gases

Ziad Hussein (JPL): Cryospheric Advanced Sensor: A Spaceborne Microwave Sensor for Sea Ice Thickness and Snow Cover Characteristics

Eastwood Im (JPL): NEXRAD In Space (NIS) — A Radar for Monitoring Hurricanes from Geostationary Orbit

Scott Janz (GSFC): Geostationary Spectrograph (GeoSpec) for Earth and Atmospheric Science Applications

Thomas Kampe (Ball Aerospace Systems Division, Boulder, Colo.): The Spaceborne Infrared Atmospheric Sounder for Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SIRAS-G)

Bjorn Lambrigtsen (JPL): Prototype Geostationary Synthetic Thinned-Aperture Radiometer

Robert Nerem (University of Colorado, Boulder):
Interferometric Range Transceiver (IRT) for Measuring Temporal Gravity Variations

Kamal Sarabandi (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor): Geostationary/Low-Earth Orbiting Radar Image Acquisition System: A Multi-Static GEO/LEO SAR Satellite Constellation for Earth Observation

NASA received 28 proposals for technology development efforts and selected nine for funding. The total funding for these investigations, over a period of three years, is approximately $22 million.