Mission Overview

A constellation of identical 3U CubeSats provide sounding (left CubeSat has a temperature profile of a simulated Tropical Cyclone (TC) from a numerical weather prediction (NWP) model) and 12-channel radiometric imagery (center CubeSat has simulated radiances from NWP model and radiative transfer model and the near right CubeSat has a single-channel radiance image of a TC) with a median revisit rate approaching 30 minutes to meet most PATH requirements.

The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission will provide rapid-refresh microwave measurements over the tropics that can be used to observe the thermodynamics of the troposphere and precipitation structure for storm systems at the mesoscale and synoptic scale over the entire storm lifecycle. TROPICS comprises a constellation of CubeSats in three low-Earth orbital planes. Each CubeSat will host a high-performance radiometer scanning across the satellite track at 30 RPM to provide temperature profiles using seven channels near the 118.75 GHz oxygen absorption line, water vapor profiles using 3 channels near the 183 GHz water vapor absorption line, imagery in a single channel near 90 GHz for precipitation measurements, and a single channel at 206 GHz for cloud ice measurements.
This observing system offers an unprecedented combination of horizontal and temporal resolution to measure environmental and inner-core conditions for tropical cyclones (TCs) on a nearly global scale and is a profound leap forward in the temporal resolution of several key parameters needed for detailed study of high-impact meteorological events (TCs being the primary emphasis in this proposal). TROPICS will demonstrate that a constellation approach to earth Science can provide improved resolution, configurable coverage (tropics, near global, or global), flexibility, reliability, and launch access at extremely low cost, thereby serving as a model for future missions.