January 7, 2011, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

GEOScan: A Geoscience Facility from Space

Dr. Lars Dyrud (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

Abstract: Iridium Communications Inc. is launching a new generation of polar orbiting communication satellites in 2015-2017. Iridium has decided to place a hosted payload bay on each of the 66+ globally distributed satellites, which brings forth the possibility to host scientific sensors. Four primary factors make this an unprecedented opportunity for geoscience discovery, while holding the potential to affect a paradigm shift in the way we conduct science from space: 1) Truly global coverage provided by the constellation 2) Massively dense-space-based measurements enable revolutionary new techniques such as tomographic imaging. 3) Because Iridium Inc. is a telecommunications company, the logistical and cost barrier of transmitting massive amounts of data from 66+ satellites is REMOVED 4) Because we plan to build nearly 70 2.5U GEOScan pods we can take advantage of the cost savings of scale for science from space instead of the highly costly "one of a kind" methods of the past. In order to take advantage of this new opportunity, we have devised a potential program named GEOScan, which consists of two complimentary main components, 1) a Hosted Sensor component similar to cubesat programs without the satellite bus, and 2) System Sensor science payloads, for which we have notionally baselined GPS radio occultation and nadir imaging. The GEOScan program will enable breakthrough science by uniformly sampling the Earth air and space environment in high resolution with truly global coverage. The density of the measurements will enable new techniques such as tomographic imaging that allow viewing the Geo-environment in far greater detail than previously possible. These data will allow research into the untouched topics within global change that require both simultaneous and global sampling. The success of the NSF funded AMPERE project that includes APL and Iridium acts as a model for GEOScan and provides inspiration for the possible science shifts in understanding possible with global space based measurements. We are seeking participants for a workshop in March 2011 to present science ideas and candidate sensors, which will form the basis of a Conceptual Design Phase document allowing GEOScan to proceed as an NSF funded major research facility. Several opportunities for partnering with other sponsors, organizations and international scientists will also be presented and sought.

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