Analysis Of Opportunities For Intercalibration Between Two Spacecraft

Roithmayr, C., and P. Speth (2012), Analysis Of Opportunities For Intercalibration Between Two Spacecraft, Spacecraft: Engineering, Technology and Research Missions, 406-436.

There is currently a strong interest in obtaining highly accurate measurements of solar radiation reflected by Earth. For example, the Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio- Studies (TRUTHS) satellite mission has been under consideration in Europe for several years, and planning is now under way for the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) spacecraft in the United States. Such spacecraft will provide measurements whose high accuracy is traceable to SI standards; these measurements will be useful as a reference for calibrating similar instruments on board other spacecraft. Hence, analysis of opportunities for intercalibration between two spacecraft plays an important role in the planning of future missions.

In order for intercalibration to take place, the measurements obtained from two spacecraft must have similar viewing geometry and be taken within a few minutes of one another. Viewing geometry is characterized in terms of viewing zenith angle, solar zenith angle, and relative azimuth angle. Opportunities for intercalibration are greater in number and longer in duration if the sensor with high accuracy can be aimed at points on the surface of the Earth other than the nadir or sub-satellite point.

Analysis of intercalibration over long periods is rendered tractable by making several simplifying assumptions regarding orbital motions of the two spacecraft about Earth, as well as Earth’s orbit about the Sun. The shape of the Earth is also considered. A geometric construction called a “tent” is introduced to facilitate analysis. It is helpful to think of an intercalibration opportunity as the passage of one spacecraft through a tent that has a fixed shape and moves with the spacecraft whose measurements are to be calibrated. Selection of points on Earth’s surface as targets for measurement is discussed, as is aiming the boresight of a steerable instrument. Analysis results for a pair of spacecraft in typical low Earth orbits are provided.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)