Determining Atmospheric Aerosol Properties from the UMBC HARP CubeSat in Space

Xiaoguang Xu, Department of Physics
J. Vanderlei Martins, Department of Physics
Rachel Smith, Department of Physics

Designed and built at the UMBC Earth and Space Institute (ESI), the Hyper-Agular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat was deployed from the International Space Station on the 19th of February 2020 and has been orbiting our planet since. By measuring the intensity and polarization state of Earth-reflected solar radiation from space, HARP provides accurate and comprehensive measurements of atmospheric aerosol and cloud properties. However, HARP CubeSat is funded by NASA as a technology demonstration project and, as such, has no funding for science data analysis, which I intend to advance through this grant. In the proposed project, we aim at an in-depth analysis of the performance of HARP CubeSat imagery, and from which we will determine the distribution of aerosols in terms of their atmospheric loading and microphysical properties. To achieve this goal, we will (1) calibrate the collected HARP imaging data to address potential instrument degradation, (2) develop a retrieval algorithm to extract aerosol information from the calibrated HARP radiance and polarization signals, (3) apply the aerosol retrieval algorithm to the entire collection of HARP CubeSat images and make HARP aerosol products available to the community, and (4) attract external collaboration in major proposals that intend to use HARP-like data for broader applications. A successful outcome on this project will allow us to be more competitive on future application of HARP-like sensors, which are currently being planned by the broad scientific community but require science demonstration and publications.