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SPEXone: a compact multi-angle polarimeter

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Author: Amerongen, A. van · Rietjens, J. · Campo, J. · Dogan, E. · DIngjan, J. · Nalla, R. · Caron, J.F. · Hasekamp, O.
Publisher: SPIE
Source:Sodnik, Z.Karafolas, N.Cugny, B., Proceedings International Conference on Space Optics, ICSO 2018, 9-12 October 2018, Chania, Greece
Identifier: 869381
doi: doi:10.1117/12.2535940
ISBN: 9781510000000
Article number: 111800L
Keywords: Constellation · Earth observation · Polarimetry · Spectrometry · Aerosols · Air quality · Greenhouse gases · Nanosatellites · NASA · Optical signal processing · Orbits · Satellites · Space flight · Telescopes · Aerosol characterization · Freeforms · Multi-angle observations · Passive optical components · Polarization modulation · Visible-wavelength spectra · Atmospheric aerosols · High Tech Systems & Materials · Industrial Innovation


We have developed a 6 dm3-sized optical instrument to characterize the microphysical properties of fine particulate matter or aerosol in the Earth atmosphere from low Earth orbit. Our instrument can provide detailed and worldwide knowledge of aerosol amount, type and properties. This is important for climate and ecosystem science and human health [1, 2]. Therefore, NASA, ESA and the European Commission study the application of aerosol instruments for planned or future missions. We distinguish molecular Rayleigh scattering from aerosol Mie-type scattering by analyzing multi-angle observations of radiance and the polarization state of sun light that is scattered in the Earth atmosphere [3]. We measure across the visible wavelength spectrum and in five distinct viewing angles between-50° and +50°. Such analysis has been traditionally done by rotating polarizers and band-filters in front of an Earth observing wide-angle imager. In contrast, we adopt a means to map the linear polarization state on the spectrum using passive optical components [4]. Thereby we can characterize the full linear polarization state for a scene instantaneously. This improves the polarimetric accuracy, which is critical for aerosol characterization, enabling us to distinguish for example anthropogenic from natural aerosol types. Moreover, the absence of moving parts simplifies the instrument, and makes it more robust and reliable. We have demonstrated this method in an airborne instrument called SPEX airborne [5, 6] in the recent ACEPOL campaign together with a suite of state-of-the art and innovative active and passive aerosol sensors on the NASA ER-2 high-altitude research platform [7]. An earlier report on the SPEX development roadmap was given in [8]. In this contribution we introduce SPEXone, a compact space instrument that has a new telescope that projects the five viewing angles onto a single polarization modulation unit and the subsequent reflective spectrometer. The novel telescope allows the observation of five scenes with one spectrometer, hence the name. We describe the optical layout of the telescope, polarization modulation optics, and spectrometer and discuss the manufacturability and tolerances involved. We will also discuss the modelled instrument performance and show preliminary results from optical breadboards of the telescope and polarization modulation optics. With SPEXone we present a strong and new tool for climate research and air quality monitoring. It can be used to study the effect of atmospheric aerosol on the heating/cooling of the Earth and on air quality. Also, SPEXone can improve the accuracy of satellite measurements of greenhouse gas concentrations and ocean color that rely on molecular absorption of reflected sunlight by providing detailed knowledge of the aerosol properties, required to accurately trace the light path in presence of scattering. SPEXone is developed in a partnership between SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands with support from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) as a Dutch contribution to the NASA PACE observatory launching in 2022.