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Next-Generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer

Figure 1: Major components of the AVIRISng airborne flight package. Also shown here is an optional companion instrument - lidar.
Figure 1: Major components of the AVIRISng airborne flight package.  Also shown here is an optional companion instrument - lidar.

The NASA Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) has been in operation since 1989 acquiring contiguous spectral measurements between 380 and 2510 nm for use by a range of terrestrial ecology science investigations related to: (1) pattern and spatial distribution of ecosystems and their components, (2) ecosystem function, physiology and seasonal activity, (3) biogeochemical cycles, (3) changes in disturbance activity, and (4) ecosystems and human health. While AVIRIS continue to make unique and significant science contributions, such as its deployment to the Gulf of Louisiana in May 2010 for the assessment of the amount of oil spilled by the offshore well, the need for a new sensor to share AVIRIS’ workload and to eventually replace AVIRIS is inevitable. Indeed, since the late summer of 2009 a new NASA Earth Science airborne sensor called the Next Generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRISng) is being developed by JPL through the funding support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The technical and programmatic oversights of the AVIRISng development is provided by NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO).

Similar to its predecessor, the AVIRISng is being designed to be compatible with a broad array of possible aircraft platforms, such as NASA’s ER-2 jet, the Twin Otter turboprop, Scaled Composites Proteus and NASA’s WB-57.

Figure 1 depicts the major components of the AVIRISng flight package, include the sensor encased in a vacuum enclosure, the high precision INS/GPS, the focal plane electronics, the On-Board Calibrator (OBC) electronics source, the heaters boxes, and a vibration isolating aircraft mount.  

Figure 2. The AVIRISng sensor
Figure 2. The AVIRISng sensor

Figure 2 shows the CAD model of the AVIRISng sensor.  It is approximately 33” tall by 20” in diameter.  Major sensor components include the optical telescope and spectrometer benches, the detector, the source for the On Board Calibrator (OBC) and kinematic struts which suspend the assembly from the instrument backplate.  The sensor is housed with a vacuum container and three thermal shields and operated at temperatures of down to -40C at the detector.  Maintenance of stable temperature across the instrument is vital to minimizing thermal distortions which could affect optical alignment.  Operational temperature is maintained by the operation of the two cyrocoolers.  This change to active cooling from the passive cryogen approach employed by AVIRIS allows operation for up to 14 days at a time with only minimal maintenance of vacuum.  The key system performance characteristics of AVIRISng are given in Table 1.

The target completion date for the completed AVIRISng instrument is July 1, 2011.  The planned initial flights will take place in a Twin Otter turboprop at altitutudes of 15 to 18 km.  It will be positioned in the downward viewing port in the back side of the aircraft.  This accommodation configuration is graphically illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3. The AVIRISng instrument accommodation in the Twin Otter aircraft.

Wavelength380 nm to 2510 nm
Spectral Resolution (FWHM, minimum)5 nm ± 0.5 nm
Field of View36 ± 2 degrees with 600 resolved elements
Instantaneous Field of View1.0 to 1.5 mrad ± 0.1 mrad
Spatial Sampling (maximum observed at resolved elements)1.0 mrad ± 0.1 mrad
Spectral Distortion (smile)Uniformity > 97%
Spectral Distortion (keystone)Uniformity > 97%
FPA480 (spectral direction) x 640 (cross track)
Frame Rate10 – 100 frames per second
Pixel Size27 microns x 27 microns
CalibrationOn-board calibrator
Data Resolution14 bits
Data RateUp to 74 MB/s of throughput
Data VolumeUp to 1.0 TB of raw data before disk swap
Physical Volume83 cm (H) x 57 cm (Dia.) plus electronics boxes and racks
Mass465 kg
Vacuum Requirement10-4 torr
Ambient Operating Temperature-40 to +50C
Maximum Altitude18 km
Cool-Down Time< 48 hours
Operational Time / Mission14 days

For more information on AVIRISng, please contact Robert Green.


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