Novel Nanosat Payloads for Naval Weather Needs
Navy STTR 2016.B - Topic N16B-T026
SPAWAR - Mr. Marty Machniak -
Opens: May 23, 2016 - Closes: June 22, 2016

TITLE: Novel Nanosat Payloads for Naval Weather Needs

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Platforms

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Naval Nanosat Program

OBJECTIVE: Develop novel Nanosat payloads for Naval weather needs.

DESCRIPTION: Beyond state of the art research and development is needed to drastically reduce the size, weight and power (SWaP) of payloads that have traditionally performed Naval weather sensing missions on much larger satellites. One example of larger systems is WindSat, a microwave radiometer which measures ocean surface vector winds. Other missions of Naval interest will also be considered. Smaller, more cost effective satellites will enable the Navy to continue vital space missions despite limited resources.

Measurement capabilities of interest include:
• Cloud Characterization - specialized imagery at sufficient resolution to enable discernment of environmental phenomena within the visible, infrared, and passive microwave portions of the spectrum. Cloud characterization products are used in a broad spectrum of operations. Interest in detecting, identifying and classifying various cloud types for use in short, medium and long range cloud forecast models.
• Theater Weather Imagery - specialized imagery at sufficient resolution to enable discernment of environmental phenomena within the visible, infrared, and passive microwave portions of the spectrum. Theater Weather Imagery supports tactical weather forecasting, interest in identifying short duration or rapidly changing weather phenomena.
• Ocean Surface Vector Winds (OSVW) is used for real-time warnings of tropical cyclone position and analysis for assimilation into forecast models. Interest in detection of high winds and sea, most notably tropical cyclone wind fields.
• Tropical Cyclone Intensity - support nowcasts and forecasts to assure safety at sea and early warning. Currently measured by DMSP SSM/I and SSMI/S, AMSR, WindSat, and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI).
• Sea Ice Characterization - data assimilated into sea ice prediction tools for safety of navigation in the Arctic. Currently derived by DMSP SSMI/S.
• Sea Surface Temperature - Used to measure climate change.

Novel technologies will enable nanosats to expand from university experiments to operational missions. Three unit (3U) and six unit (6U) Cubesat free flying mission designs will be considered. Hosted payloads of a similar size will also be considered. Specific spacecraft bus models or designs have not been chosen, although it can be assumed that approximately half of a 3U spacecraft or one third of a 6U spacecraft size, weight and power will be used for power management, attitude control, communications and other basic spacecraft functions. In general, proposed payloads should:
• Meet the CubeSat Design Specifications (reference 2)
• Fit within approximately 10x10x15 cm and have 2.5 kg or less mass for a 3U Cubesat design, or 10x10x30 cm and have 5 kg or less mass for a 6U design
• Operate on throughput limited UHF or S-band communications links
• Survive the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) space environment for at least two years
• Operate with significant power constraints, either very low duty cycle or very low instantaneous power

PHASE I: Determine project feasibility and develop a novel payload concept design for nanosats to support a Naval weather need. Use modeling and simulation or other suitable analysis techniques, to verify that the payload concept design can operate within the restrictions identified in the description section for a 3U or 6U Cubesat payload and that the payload can provide at least one of the weather related measurement capabilities of interest.

PHASE II: Build a protoflight Novel Nanosat Payload for Naval Weather Needs and test it in the space environment.

• Optimize the payload design based on feedback from Phase I
• Build a protoflight unit
• Demonstrate operation of the protoflight payload in a simulated space environment such as thermal vacuum.
• Evaluate measured performance characteristics versus expectations and make design adjustments as necessary.
• Prepare the protoflight payload for integration with an appropriate satellite bus for a flight demonstration
• Update payload and/or system performance models
• Refine cost estimates to produce the payload in large quantities over time with the ability to insert technological advances during the production lifecycle.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: This phase will focus on integrating the technology into Naval Nanosat missions. Private Sector Commercial Potential: The technologies developed under this topic to reduce SWaP can be applied to a variety of commercial, military and space exploration nanosat missions. A number of low cost space missions have become commercial ventures in recent years.


  • Naval Open Architecture.
  • CubeSat Design Specification,
  • “The Navy's Needs in Space for Providing Future Capabilities”, 2005, National Academies Press,
  • PEO Space Systems. Http://
  • Windsat. Http://
  • Air Force Scientific Advisory Board “Microsatellite Mission Applications” study 2013.
  • Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command. Http://

KEYWORDS: Nanosat, weather, space, remote sensing, meteorology, oceanography

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