A Novel Satellite Mission Concept for Upper Air Water Vapour, Aerosol and Cloud Observations Using Integrated Path Differential Absorption LiDAR Limb Sounding

Remote Sensing, 2012, 4(4), published online 27 March 2012

Alex Hoffmann , Debbie Clifford , Josep Aulinas , James G. Carton , Florian Deconinck , Berivan Esen , Jakob Hüsing , Katharina Kern , Stephan Kox , David Krejci , Thomas Krings , Steffen Lohrey , Patrick Romano , Ricardo Topham, and Claudia Weitnauer

“We propose a new satellite mission to deliver high quality measurements of upper air water vapour. The concept centres around a LiDAR in limb sounding by occultation geometry, designed to operate as a very long path system for differential absorption measurements. We present a preliminary performance analysis with a system sized to send 75 mJ pulses at 25 Hz at four wavelengths close to 935 nm, to up to 5 microsatellites in a counter-rotating orbit, carrying retroreflectors characterized by a reflected beam divergence of roughly twice the emitted laser beam divergence of 15 µrad. This provides water vapour profiles with a vertical sampling of 110 m; preliminary calculations suggest that the system could detect concentrations of less than 5 ppm. A secondary payload of a fairly conventional medium resolution multispectral radiometer allows wide-swath cloud and aerosol imaging. The total weight and power of the system are estimated at 3 tons and 2,700 W respectively.

“This novel concept presents significant challenges, including the performance of the lasers in space, the tracking between the main spacecraft and the retroreflectors, the refractive effects of turbulence, and the design of the telescopes to achieve a high signal-to-noise ratio for the high precision measurements. The mission concept was conceived at the Alpbach Summer School 2010.”