Mission Information


TEMPEST-D is a technology demonstration mission to enable millimeter wave radiometer technologies on a low-cost, short development schedule. The mission, led by Principal Investigator (PI), Prof. Steven C. Reising of Colorado State University (CSU) in partnership with JPL and Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT), reduces the risk, cost, and development duration for a future TEMPEST mission, which would provide the first ever temporal observations of cloud and precipitation processes on a global scale. TEMPEST-D is sponsored by the NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program and managed by the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO). For TEMPEST-D, JPL developed a mm-wave radiometer payload that operates at five channels from 89 to 182 GHz and fits in a 4U volume within the 6U CubeSat.

Artist's rendition of the deployed TEMPEST-D nanosatellite
Artist's rendition of the deployed TEMPEST-D small satellite. Image credit: BCT, CSU

TEMPEST-D will reduce the risk, cost and development time of a future constellation of 6U-Class nanosatellites to directly observe the time evolution of clouds and study the conditions that control the transition from non-precipitating to precipitating clouds using high-temporal resolution observations. TEMPEST-D provides passive millimeter-wave observations using a compact radiometer (89-182 GHz) that fits well within the size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements of the 6U-Class satellite architecture. TEMPEST-D is part of Orbital ATK’s OA-9 Cygnus resupply mission that launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 21.

By measuring the temporal evolution of clouds from the moment of the onset of precipitation, a TEMPEST constellation mission would improve our understanding of cloud processes and help to constrain one of the largest sources of uncertainty in climate models. Knowledge of clouds, cloud processes and precipitation is essential to our understanding of climate change. Uncertainties in the representation of key processes that govern the formation and dissipation of clouds and, in turn, control the global water and energy budgets lead to substantially different predictions of future climate in current models.

The complete TEMPEST-D spacecraft with the instrument integrated and ready for launch, shown with the solar panels deployed.
The complete TEMPEST-D spacecraft with the instrument integrated and ready for launch, shown with the solar panels deployed. Image credit: Blue Canyon Technologies

The goal of the TEMPEST-D mission is to validate the performance of a CubeSat microwave radiometer designed to study precipitation events on a global scale. The TEMPEST constellation of 6U CubeSats is designed to sample convective precipitation events, from cloud formation, through ice formation and precipitation to cloud dissipation.