A fully implemented RAVAN mission entails a constellation of multiple RAVAN satellites distributed around the planet to measure Earth’s outgoing energy globally. Credits: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Blue Canyon Technologies
In order to measure Earth’s radiation balance, accurate measurements of both incoming and outgoing radiation have to be made. NASA has been testing a new prototype satellite to measure outgoing radiation from Earth. Up until now, the error on this measurement is estimated to be around +/- 5Wm^2, which means any ‘global warming’ signal is lost in the error margin. This has meant scientists have had to rely on models for estimates.
“We know that outgoing radiation from Earth varies widely over time depending on variables such as clouds or aerosols or temperature changes,” Swartz said. “A constellation can provide a global, 24/7 coverage that would improve these measurements.”
“This successful technology demonstration realizes the potential of a new observation scenario to get at a very difficult measurement using constellation missions,” said Charles Norton, program area associate for the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Of course, the other side of this equation is measurement of incoming solar radiation, which has been fraught with troubles of its own.