2021-09-08

NASA engineers think about using satellite clusters to in-depth climate research

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NASA engineers think about using satellite clusters to in-depth climate research

We already know that at certain times of the year, Sahara dust blowing into the Amazon rainforest will affect cloud formation over the Atlantic Ocean. Then how do we record the cloud, and how do we let a large group of satellites observe this phenomenon in a specific area and at what time of day?

According to it, scientists will establish a set of requirements for such observations and define high-value targets. The software will then take over the operation, allowing the spacecraft clusters to know their movement relative to each other to better observe specific targets.

This set of strategies may vary according to the time of day, season, or area of ​​observation. Over time, the spacecraft can also memorize machine learning schemes to improve its observation strategy.

NASA engineers think about using satellite clusters to in-depth climate research(1)

Dual satellite tracking method based on orbit height adjustment

Currently, the NASA research team is considering various types of satellite cluster configurations. One is to place a group of satellites in different orbits so that they can observe clouds or other phenomena from different angles. The other is to observe the same object from a similar perspective, but at different times of the day.

The third is to combine the above two sets of solutions, so that some of the satellites are in the same orbit, but there are some time offsets between each other, while other satellites may be in orbits with different altitudes and/or inclination angles. .

Although the satellite cluster stays in the same orbit, a single spacecraft can even use a so-called “differential drag control” scheme (based on the resistance of the earth’s atmosphere to the orbiter) to control each The time interval of a spacecraft relative to other spacecraft in the cluster.

It is reported that the timing of the implementation of this plan depends on the mass, area, and orbital height of the spacecraft-as short as a few days and hours, and as long as a year.

NASA engineers think about using satellite clusters to in-depth climate research(2)

Small satellites can have a narrow angle with a group , High-resolution similar spacecraft grouping use

By arranging multiple spacecraft into a formation to observe the same target, you can not only see the cloud from the top, but also observe it from the side . In different formations, you can see the clouds at different stages in their life cycle through multiple small satellites passing by at different times.

The updated model of the instrument is called HARP2, which is scheduled to be put into use in 2023 to perform the task of helping scientists gain insights into plankton, aerosols, clouds, and marine ecosystems (referred to as PACE).