Abstract

The Polar Radiant Energy in the Far Infrared Experiment (PREFIRE) mission will, for the first time, systematically document the far-infrared (15-54 µm) spectral region from space. The environmental sampling characteristics of the PREFIRE CubeSats, defined in terms of surface temperature (Tsfc) and column water vapor (CWV) are evaluated for a range of possible orbit scenarios for both clear-sky and all-sky conditions over a variety of surface types (land, ocean, sea ice, snow, glacier ice) at both poles. Using NASA Aqua’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) and Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) retrievals to define the climatological ranges of Tsfc and CWV, the fraction of environmental regimes observed by distinct PREFIRE configurations are evaluated. The sampling rates within any single year for two-orbit CubeSat launches spanning both polar regions are ~75% for clear-sky and ~85% for all-sky compared to the AIRS/AMSU climatology. Decreasing mission duration from twelve to three months decreases sampling much more (10-20%) than decreasing the swath width from fifteen to eight footprints (6-9%). For a single CubeSat launch, a 98° orbital inclination provides slightly better sampling than either 93° or 103°. For a two-orbit CubeSat launch, a combination of 93°+98° is somewhat preferable to 103°+98°. Finally, a 50% data loss rate simulated by dropping out every other orbit leads to only a modest 7-8% reduction in sampling from full data coverage. This statistical analysis demonstrates that low-cost platforms could offer similar coverage as present-day flagship missions for sampling wide-ranging Tsfc and CWV states over polar regions.

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