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Guidelines for pre-launch characterization and calibration of remote sensing satellite sensors

In cooperation with NASA, PL scientists have published an interagency report for the Global Space-based Inter-Calibration System (GSICS) Executive panel of NOAA outlining guidelines for characterizing and calibrating remote sensing equipment prior to launch into orbit. Satellite remote sensing has the potential to deliver high-accuracy data that is important for identifying small variations in the climate over long periods of time. However, ensuring the accuracy and uniformity of these observations requires traceable measurements and post-launch validation.

The report describes a three-step process designed for achieving SI traceability. The first step involves forming a team of project scientists, calibration experts, and instrument vendors who will design the sensor, determine mission and calibration requirements, and develop the plan for calibration and SI traceability. The second step involves component characterization, sensor testing, and performance modeling under orbiting conditions. And finally, the third step involves comparison of the modeled performance predicted from the second step with system-level, end-to-end testing to establish pre-launch measurement uncertainty. This process will enable the intercomparison and intercalibration of different sensors in space, which are necessary for creating highly accurate climate records.

The report also details four examples, in which NIST was involved, of best practice for building SI traceability for instrumentation in remote sensing programs. These examples include intercomparisons involving NASA, NOAA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meterological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the European Space Agency (ESA).

For further information, see Best Practice Guidelines for Pre-Launch Characterization and Calibration of Instruments for Passive Optical Remote Sensing, NISTIR 7637.

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