Observing Microwave Emissions for Geophysical Applications

Program Goals

OMEGA is a new initiate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and National Space Science and Technology Center to develop and advance mission concepts, instruments, and supporting science to enable retrieval of soil moisture globally from small special-focus satellites for applications such as improved meteorological and flood forecasting, global water cycle science, and provide independent validation of the ESA SMOS mission.

Radio frequency interference is an increasing problem for Earth remote sensing. Several studies and anecdotal evidence attest to the existence of undesired RFI in the 1400 to 1427 MHz band because there is no regular enforcement of the FCC restriction on transmission. However, the characteristics of RFI (low-level interference and radar-pulse noise) are not well known because there has been no systematic surveillance or mapping of L-band RFI heretofore. Another goal of OMEGA is to develop an L-band patch array radiometer specifically designed to characterize the intensity, spectral bandwidth, and temporal persistence of RFI signals and to thoroughly test RFI detection and mitigation technology.

The approach will incorporate recent advances in antennas, radiometers and lightweight, reliable antenna deployment mechanisms to develop an L-band system small and light enough to be deployed on a small satellite. Small satellite platforms provide a unique opportunity for microwave instrument technology R&D and an opportunity to exploit space at significantly less expense and risk compared to large traditional platforms designed for lifespans of 3-5 years or more. Although the microsatellite mission lifespan is expected to be on the order of 1-2 years, it can provide significant R&D opportunities to advance instrument technology by testing various receiver and antenna designs and performance characteristics in space. Small satellites serve as stepping stones in the development and risk reduction process of instruments for larger scientific mission platforms. Risk can be reduced through capability demonstration tests using small satellites thereby significantly reducing costs, risks, and schedule uncertainties.

Development of L-band instruments on unmanned aerial systems (UASs) is being considered as both a development and demonstration platform as well as a possible science platform to augment manned aircraft deployments. Thus, of particular interest in this activity are technologies that lead to downsizing microwave sensors that will make them better suited for small satellites as well as UAS platforms.


Technical Contact: Dr. Charles A. Laymon (charles.laymon@nasa.gov)

Responsible Official: Dr. James L. Smoot (James.L.Smoot@nasa.gov)

Page Curator: Paul J. Meyer (paul.meyer@nasa.gov)