National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Role of Small Satellites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Programs (2000)

Chapter: Appendix A: Statement of Task

« Previous: 8 Findings and Recommendations
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2000. The Role of Small Satellites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9819.
×

A Statement of Task

ANALYSIS OF SMALL SATELLITE CAPABILITIES IN LIGHT OF SCIENCE REQUIREMENTS FOR CORE OBSERVATIONAL NEEDS IN EARTH STUDIES

Background In recent years, "faster, better, cheaper" has become the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) motto for future missions. New technologies have evolved in the Department of Defense (through the Strategic Defense Initiative and other defense activities) and to enable constellations of low-altitude communication satellites. In addition small, commercial launch vehicles are being developed. Proponents now assert that these advances offer new means for the conduct of Earth observations that offer lower costs and enhanced capabilities. They also assert that the technologies are applicable to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). Furthermore, pressures on the federal budget have produced calls for a complete revamping of the Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) [now called Earth Science Enterprise—ESE] and its ground data processing element (both in the pre-2000 era that was targeted in earlier restructurings and more recently in a new reexamination of post-2000 plans) and in the annual cost of NOAA's operational satellites. In both instances, the issue of the small satellite capabilities and applicability arises.

NASA's MTPE and NOAA's Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) have evolved in an era in which launch vehicle costs were a major driver in overall mission costs. The POES are in the process of being merged with the Air Force's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The DMSP satellites evolved in the same era and with the same underlying assumption of high launch costs. This was also an era in which the available launch vehicles did not pose a serious limit on payload and spacecraft mass or volume. As a result, both MTPE and POES/DMSP found the most economical overall design to be one in which several sensors were flown on the same spacecraft. This configuration also offered the advantage of multiple Earth sensors simultaneously observing some atmospheric and surface parameters. It is time to reassess whether earlier assumptions and technical approaches should now be changed due to new technology and the changed environment.

Plan The study will address the following questions:

  1. What are the core observational needs for NASA and NOAA/DMSP?

  2. Are there simultaneity of measurement requirements that necessitate that particular sensors are orbited on the same spacecraft or on two or more spacecraft that orbit in close proximity to one another (e.g., in a satellite constellation)?

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2000. The Role of Small Satellites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9819.
×
  1. What instrument technologies are currently planned for the conduct of these observations?

  2. Have new payload technologies emerged that can reduce cost, payload mass, power requirements, other interface needs (views of cold space for radiative cooling, views of celestial objects for calibration, thermal dissipation, etc.), and/or data communications needs with respect to those that are planned?

  3. Have new spacecraft technologies emerged that can enhance payload mass, power, and volume fractions or reduce overall system costs?

  4. As a result of technological advances, are there new ways of aggregating or parsing sensor systems (including satellite constellations) that can offer advantages in the cost or effectiveness of Earth observations?

  5. If such ways exist, what are their implications for the future of MTPE, POES/DMSP, and GOES in terms of both spacecraft and ground system configurations?

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2000. The Role of Small Satellites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9819.
×
Page 67
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2000. The Role of Small Satellites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9819.
×
Page 68
Next: Appendix B: Effects of Technology on Sensor Size and Design »
The Role of Small Satellites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Programs Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $39.00 Buy Ebook | $31.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Remote observations of Earth from space serve an extraordinarily broad range of purposes, resulting in extraordinary demands on those at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and elsewhere who must decide how to execute them. In research, Earth observations promise large volumes of data to a variety of disciplines with differing needs for measurement type, simultaneity, continuity, and long-term instrument stability. Operational needs, such as weather forecasting, add a distinct set of requirements for continual and highly reliable monitoring of global conditions.

The Role of Small Satelites in NASA and NOAA Earth Observation Porgrams confronts these diverse requirements and assesses how they might be met by small satellites. In the past, the preferred architecture for most NASA and NOAA missions was a single large spacecraft platform containing a sophisticated suite of instruments. But the recognition in other areas of space research that cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and robustness may be enhanced by using small spacecraft has raised questions about this philosophy of Earth observation. For example, NASA has already abandoned its original plan for a follow-on series of major platforms in its Earth Observing System.

This study finds that small spacecraft can play an important role in Earth observation programs, providing to this field some of the expected benefits that are normally associated with such programs, such as rapid development and lower individual mission cost. It also identifies some of the programmatic and technical challenges associated with a mission composed of small spacecraft, as well as reasons why more traditional, larger platforms might still be preferred. The reasonable conclusion is that a systems-level examination is required to determine the optimum architecture for a given scientific and/or operational objective. The implied new challenge is for NASA and NOAA to find intra- and interagency planning mechanisms that can achieve the most appropriate and cost-effective balance among their various requirements.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!