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Stratus [MTU]

The Stratus 3U CubeSat mission is a science investigation developed by the Michigan Technological University, Houghton, to deploy and demonstrate a low-cost CubeSat platform capable of measuring cloud fraction, cloud top height, and cloud top wind with performance comparable to the best data obtained from NASA’s flagship Earth-observing spacecraft.

Cloud properties are important for the energy budget of the Earth, as both incoming sunlight and outgoing thermal radiation are very sensitive to cloud variables.

The Stratus vehicle is a three-axis-stabilized thermal infrared telescope that will be used to image atmospheric clouds. Using asynchronous stereo image processing, the data from Stratus will provide Cloud Fraction, Cloud Top Wind, and Cloud Top Height information that can be used to reconcile climate models. If successful, a number of inexpensive Stratus spacecraft could be deployed in the future to gather hyper-local weather data.

The raw data returned by stratus will be thermal infrared (TIR) images of cloudy scenes in earth's atmosphere. During phase I of the mission Stratus will operate in a three axis stabiuzed configuration with TIR imager boresight in the nadir direction. In this configuration Stratus will operate as a cloud surveyor, providing images that directly yield cloud fraction. During phase II Stratus will collect data that will reveal cloud top height and cloud top wind. this will be accomplished using asynchronous stereo imaging. In this technique two or more images of the same scene are recorded from different viewpoints. Features in the scene will be shifted laterally from image to image based on the parallax of the viewpoint. This displacement, combined with knowledge of the viewing direction, can be used to extract cloud top height and cloud top wind.

The Stratus vehicle will be integrated from commercially available components with very little custom hardware development. This approach minimizes the schedule risk associated with the 18 month timeline.

Stratus was selected in 2016 by NASA to be launched as part of the ELaNa program.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Technology
Operator: Michigan Technological University
Contractors: Michigan Technological University
Configuration: CubeSat (3U)
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Stratus - (via NASA ELaNa program) with ?