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Tiny satellites can better estimate Earth's reflected energy

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  14 July 2016 12:00 AM GMT

New York, July 13: Small shoebox-sized satellites, flying in formation around the Earth, could estimate the planet’s reflected energy with twice the accuracy of traditiol monolith satellites, according to a new study led by an Indian-origin professor. If done right, such satellite swarms could also be cheaper to build, launch and maintain.

Sreeja g, a former graduate student in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) department of aeroutics and astroutics, simulated the performance of a single large, orbiting satellite with nine sensors and compared it with a cluster of three to eight small, single-sensor satellites flying together around the Earth.

The team found that clusters of four or more small satellites were able to look at a single location on Earth from multiple angles and measure that location’s total reflectance with an error that is half that of single satellites in operation today.

According to g, such a correction in estimation error could significantly improve scientists’ climate projections. “If we can estimate the reflectance of different surface type, globally and more accurately which a cluster of satellites would let you do, then at least you’ve solved one part of the climate puzzle,” said g in a paper. Today, satellites that measure the amount of light reflected from the Earth do so with multiple cameras arranged on a single satellite.

For example, SA’s Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on the Terra satellite houses nine cameras that take images of the Earth from a fan-like arrangement of angles. (IANS)

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