Archived: July 29, 2004

The purpose of an imaging remote sensor on the International Space Station is to provide the Station with an improved capability to collect high quality images of the Earth and that augment/complement the data planned to be acquired by the un-manned MTPE satellites. The sensor once locked on a 'field of view' would acquire imagery in electronic form in selected wavebands within the optical region from ultraviolet through the emissive infrared region (approximately 0.4 to the 14 micron interval). Measurements in selected portions of various atmospheric absorption bands would also support corrections for atmospheric conditions to be applied to the imagery.

Each set of spectral images at the spatial resolution over the sensor field of view would provide a rich source of data that captures the spectral, spatial and radiometric characteristics of a scene at a given sun and look angle. This would include photographic like images at wavelengths outside the photographic region. The instrument would also be used to acquire imagery in "dark conditions" in the emissive waveband transmission windows of the atmosphere (2 to 14 microns). The required cooling system for sensor detectors at these wavelengths would be relatively convenient to maintain -- given the re-supply capabilities and presence of a human operators in the Space Station environment.

This type of sensor is not a new concept nor is its use from space. A version of such an instrument was explored in the 1960's in a contemplated manned space system of that era and a simpler version was built and flown on the Skylab. Since then there has been tremendous advancements in detector and optical materials, other associated technologies, etc. Using today's state of capability the design and use of such an instrument should be relatively straight forward.

The instrument would be used throughout the life of the ISS to acquire a database catalogue of imagery having measurements of elements of scenes of various important Earth features at a variety of different sun angle, look angle combinations, at different times of day and season. These measurements would provide a rich source of data to complement the data from other planned sensors; importantly the imagery would also provide an exciting new source of pictorial data allowing persons to "see spatial phenomena" outside the photographic spectral range. This optical data would also complement the spatial data acquired in microwave bands by existing imaging radar systems.

A multi-university student design project will be developed to establish the specifications of a space-based sensor to meet the desired remote sensing requirements. It would also be desirable to investigate the design and operations of such an instrument to be carried on the Space Station to assure feasibility and estimate the costs for its development and operation.


Sunday, 01-Aug-2004 00:24:38 CDT