Next week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will hold a series of meetings with potential government, academic, and commercial partners to discuss the agency’s intention to evaluate forthcoming satellite and ground architecture technologies.

NOAA published 3 Broad Agency Announcements on April 29. Two BAAs are dedicated to satellite sensors: one for detecting 3-dimensional atmospheric winds as well as the other for the hyperspectral microwave remote sensing results. NOAA is also searching for information on a digital twin system for Earth monitoring based on artificial intelligence.

Sid Boukabara, who is the principal scientist at NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service Office of System Architecture and Advanced Planning, informed SpaceNews that the ultimate goal is to improve NOAA’s forecasting skills. “These technologies have the capacity to enhance our ability to deliver high-quality data to our customers.”

Accurate weather forecasts require data collected in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Northrop Grumman Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder, which collects data in 22 channels and is carried by polar-orbiting weather satellites, is now used by NOAA.

Future microwave sounders, according to Boukabara, could “sample at a considerably greater spectral resolution and contain potentially hundreds of channels.  We are going to be able to more effectively measure the moisture and temperature in the atmosphere by having a lot more channels.”

Another NOAA goal is to measure the atmospheric wind vertical distribution from space. For the time being, meteorologists use the migration of moisture in the atmosphere to determine wind direction and severity.

“What we’re looking for here is to supplement that by evaluating technology that will provide us with the complete vertical profile of wind in the atmosphere.”  According to Boukabara. “Ideally, we’d like to have a comparison of the various technologies such that we can learn about the benefits and drawbacks of each and assess their influence on the NOAA mission.”

A Doppler wind lidar, such as the one flown by the European Space Agency aboard Aeolus in 2018, is one conceivable technological answer. NOAA authorities are eager to investigate the possibility of digital twin technology to upgrade the ground architecture. “Digital twins have been used in a variety of industries,” Boukabara explained. “What we’re attempting to do is take advantage of that and apply it to Earth science.”

NOAA’s current ground system design collects data from NOAA and its partners’ satellite sensors across the world. Each sensor generates a range of data products based on the location of the sensor and the time of day.

“What we intend to do is essentially fuse all of the data and place it into a digital simulation of the Earth ecosystem from the ocean to the atmosphere to the cryosphere all the up to space weather,” Boukabara explained.

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