Ball Aerospace selected by NASA for three studies to develop future SLI technology

Ball Aerospace was selected by NASA to move forward with three studies to develop and demonstrate innovative Sustainable Land Imaging (SLI) technologies for potential use on future missions of the Landsat program, a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that is entering its fifth decade of existence.

Image credit: Aerospace Technology

The studies leverage previous SLI Technologies, including the Ball-built Operational Land Imager 2, which will fly on the Landsat 9 mission launching in 2021.

"We are honored and excited that Ball was chosen by NASA for three studies to explore next-generation technologies for the Landsat Program," said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace. "These studies reflect the importance of continued advancement and the development of creative solutions. We are pushing the boundaries of what's possible when it comes to innovating robust, precisely-calibrated sensors in increasingly compact packages."

The selection came on the heels of the final airborne science flights of two other Sustainable Land Imaging (SLI) technology demonstrations – the Reduced Envelope Multispectral Imager - Airborne (REMI-AB) and the Compact Hyperspectral Prism Spectrometer - Airborne (CHPS-AB). Both were designed to demonstrate improved Landsat mission performance in compact instrument packages.

The three studies include:

Landsat Calibration Satellite (LCS) – This study builds on the CHPS instrument and aims to provide the cross-calibration and validation capability required to knit together a future Land Imaging Constellation. LCS-B focuses on the key technical challenges to providing an on-orbit reference instrument – specifically, differences in spatial and spectral performance between disparate platforms, such as Sentinel-2, Planet, and Landsat-8.

TransCal – This is an innovative calibration approach using Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal material to continue the precise on-orbit calibration method used extensively in the Landsat program, while significantly reducing the size and complexity of the calibration subsystem. This study aims to reduce resources needed (e.g., cost, size, volume and mass) for next-generation SLI instruments, while meeting or exceeding the current Land Imaging capabilities.

Reduced Envelope Multispectral Infrared Radiometer (REMIR) – This study will design and build a single, full spectral range (visible through thermal infrared) instrument suite that represents the next step in meeting the thermal infrared band requirements for future Landsat missions. The proposed technology leverages the previous success of the REMI instrument, as well as NASA and Ball investments in new detectors, innovative calibration subsystems (e.g. the NASA Compact Infrared Radiometer in Space CubeSat mission, built by Ball and currently in orbit) and a scanning approach that enables significant reductions in size, weight and power compared to the existing Landsat architecture.

Ball has played a key role in the continuity of the current Landsat program having built the OLI instrument flying on the Landsat 8 satellite and the OLI-2 instrument for Landsat 9. As a partner on the NASA SLI-Technology program, Ball has developed and demonstrated innovative instruments that provide for a flexible and sustainable next-generation Landsat architecture.

Source: Ball Aerospace