The NASA Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission is a constellation of state-of-the-science observing platforms that measures temperature and humidity soundings and precipitation with spatial resolution comparable to current operational passive microwave sounders but with unprecedented temporal resolution (median revisit time of 60 minutes). TROPICS is comprised of four 3U cubesats, each hosting a 12-channel passive microwave radiometer. TROPICS provides imagery near 91 and 205 GHz, temperature soundings near 118 GHz, and moisture soundings near 183 GHz. Spatial resolution at nadir is around 27 km for temperature and 17 km for moisture and precipitation, with a swath width of approximately 2000 km. The primary mission objective of TROPICS is to relate temperature, humidity, and precipitation structure to the evolution of tropical cyclone intensity. See the TROPICS Mission webpage and Blackwell et al. (2018) for more detail. However, a diversity of other applications have been identified for TROPICS, including for data assimilation, rainfall monitoring, and disaster response. These applications, and synergistic applications with other satellite missions, were most recently discussed at the 2023 Joint Applications Workshop on NASA's TROPICS and CYGNSS Satellite Missions.
The TROPICS qualification unit was launched as a Pathfinder vehicle June 30, 2021, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare into a sun-synchronous orbit. The Pathfinder is nearly identical to the constellation satellites, and its presence on orbit for nearly two years allowed preliminary results to be produced and communications systems and data processing algorithms to be tested prior to constellation launch. The constellation of four satellites was successfully deployed on two separate launches provided by Rocket Lab on May 8, 2023 and May 26, 2023. Testing during the Pathfinder phase enabled accelerated spacecraft commissioning and calibration/validation for the Constellation, with first light images (below) released on July 19, 2023. Click on the image to read the press release.
Identify applied research and applications areas relevant to TROPICS
Use current sensors and proxy data to demonstrate TROPICS capabilities and value
Foster interaction between the Science Team and applied research / operational communities
The SPoRT Center was established in 2002 for transitioning unique satellite observations and research capabilities to end users to improve short term forecasting and decision support. SPoRT team members work within a research to operations/operations to research paradigm to introduce experimental products to the operational environment via active involvement of end users. Involving the end users in the process ensures the products being developed by the researchers meet the end users' needs. This highly successful paradigm will be utilized in pre-launch activities to engage the applied research and operational forecasting communities regarding the capabilities of TROPICS.