Image Formulation Module
The image formation module autonomously downlinks (sends a signal from the spacecraft) to those regions of interest where change such as flooding, ice melt, and lava flows have occurred. It also shifts the radar aim-point (where it is directed) on the next orbit to identify and captures the full extent of a change, such as a flood. It transforms raw radar instrument data into synthetic aperture radar images, which may have reduced resolution (fewer pixels).
On deep space missions, the science analysis module onboard a spacecraft or satellite will be able to capture short-term science phenomenasuch as eruption of volcanoes on Io, formation of jets on comets, and phase transitions in ring systemsat very short intervals of time. And this will be done without overwhelming onboard caching (quick operations performed by computer memory) or downlink capacities. And, on extended duration missions, it will enable study of long-term phenomena such as atmospheric changes at Jupiter and the flexing and cracking of the ice crust on Europa.
Artist's concept of data acquisition. |
Consider a volcano-observation scenario that involves monitoring lava flows in Hawaii. Sciencecraft technology would be used to:
- select volcano region
- radar image volcano
- form reflectivity image of how much light is reflected and from where
- compare image with previous image (which may simply be a comparison of previous boundary position, if that was all that was returned)
- determine area of new flow
- send back imagery of identified "new flow" areas or send back a higher-level representation of the flow