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Spacecraft-to-Spacecraft Radio Occultations for the Study of Planetary Atmospheres: New Mission Concepts for Mars and Venus

Event

Title:
Spacecraft-to-Spacecraft Radio Occultations for the Study of Planetary Atmospheres: New Mission Concepts for Mars and Venus
When:
Mié, 22. Abril 2020, 12:00 h
Where:
Sala Alberto Lobo, Instituto Ciencias del Espacio - Barcelona
Category:
Seminarios
Created by:
Sabela Rei

Description

Spacecraft-to-Spacecraft Radio Occultations for the Study of Planetary Atmospheres: New Mission Concepts for Mars and Venus

Ponente: Dr. Chi On Ao (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA)

Radio occultation (RO) is a technique which was first used in 1965 during the Mariner 4 flyby of Mars, providing valuable information on the vertical structure of the Mars atmosphere. Since then, it has been an important part of most planetary missions including the New Horizons’ recent flyby of Pluto. By precise tracking of the radio signals from the spacecraft to an Earth tracking station (or vice versa) as they pass through the planetary atmosphere, it is possible to derive a profile of refractivity index (and hence density, temperature, pressure, etc.) with very good vertical resolution.

In the late 1980s, it was recognized that the same technique can be applied on radio links between a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite and a receiver on low Earth orbit to sound the Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere. This concept was later proved with the GPS/MET mission, and subsequent analysis from various missions (CHAMP, COSMIC, MetOp, etc.) showed that such GPS-RO observations provide unique values in weather forecasting and climate applications with instrumentations that are cost effective. An advantage of GPS-RO over traditional planetary RO is that, aside from the large number of transmitters, the spacecraft-spacecraft crosslink geometry from GPS-RO provides much more uniform distribution of occultation soundings geographically and across local times. With the rapid advancement of smallsat technologies that are enabling deep space missions (e.g., the twin MarCO cubesats), it becomes increasingly feasible to deploy multiple smallsats in future Mars and Venus missions so that spacecraft-to-spacecraft RO can be realized for these planets.

In this talk, I will review the basic concept of RO and its historical developments. I will discuss an opportunistic crosslink RO experiment performed by the JPL team between two Mars orbiters: the first spacecraft-to-spacecraft RO measurements ever recorded outside of Earth. This demonstration opens the exciting possibility of obtaining dense RO measurements for sensing the atmospheres of Mars and Venus using multiple smallsats. I will discuss some of the mission concepts that have been proposed, their benefits, and implementation challenges.


Venue

Location:
Sala Alberto Lobo, Instituto Ciencias del Espacio - Website
Street:
Campus UAB, Carrer de Can Magrans, s/n
ZIP:
08193
City:
Barcelona

Description

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