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Microwave Photonic Imaging Radiometer, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Passive Microwave Remote Sensing is currently utilized by NASA, NOAA, and USGIS to conduct Earth Science missions, including weather forecasting, early warning systems, and climate studies. Due to budgetary constraints and lack of reliable access to medium-lift vehicles, the current trend in the space industry is towards smaller, cheaper, and more frequent missions. Nano-satellites, such as CubeSats, are gaining in popularity due to their low cost and ease of deployment. These miniaturized platforms impose severe constraints on the size, weight, and power (SWaP) of the payload. However, relatively large apertures are required to achieve desired spatial resolution. In this NASA SBIR effort, Phase Sensitive Innovations (PSI) will dramatically reduce the SWaP of our microwave photonic imaging radiometer technology, thus making it amenable to deployment on spaceborne platforms. Our innovative approach employs distributed aperture imaging (DAI) with optical upconversion of the incoming microwave radiation and subsequent coherent optical reconstruction of the microwave scene. The sensor features a flexible, two-dimensional form factor that allows the antenna array to be stowed for launch and deployed once in orbit using space inflatables, which enables a large RF aperture to be realized on a small platform. Besides easing implementation on small satellites, PSI?s imaging radiometer provides capabilities beyond those currently available on conventional microwave sensors, most notably the ability to generate real-time, two-dimensional radiometric imagery with no mechanical scanning. The end result of our effort will not only greatly reduce the SWaP of our instrument commensurate with deployment on emerging platforms, but also reduce the cost and complexity while increasing reliability and performance. These improvements in turn will open up new market segments for the technology. More »

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