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The glacier and land ice surface topography interferometer: An airborne proof-of-concept demonstration of high-precision Ka-band single-pass elevation mapping

  • Author(s): Moller, D
  • Hensley, S
  • Sadowy, GA
  • Fisher, CD
  • Michel, T
  • Zawadzki, M
  • Rignot, E
  • et al.

As part of the NASA International Polar Year activities, a Ka-band cross-track interferometric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) recently demonstrated high-precision elevation swath mapping capability. This proof-of-concept instrument was achieved by interfacing two Ka-band slotted-waveguide antennas in a cross-track geometry and Ka-band electronics with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's L-band uninhabited aerial vehicle SAR. Deployed on the NASA Gulfstream III, initial engineering flights in March and April 2009 marked the first airborne demonstration of single-pass cross-track interferometry at Ka-band. Results of a preliminary interferometric assessment indicate height precisions that, for a 3 m × 3 m posting, range from 30 cm in the near range to 3 m in the far range and greater than 5 km of swath over the urban areas imaged. The engineering flights were followed by a comprehensive campaign to Greenland in May 2009 for ice-surface topography mapping assessment. Toward that end, coordinated flights with the NASA Wallops Airborne Topographic Mapper lidar were conducted in addition to establishing ground calibration sites at both the Summit Station of the National Science Foundation and the Swiss Camp of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences. Comparisons of the radar-derived elevation measurements with both in situ and lidar data are planned for a subsequent paper; however, at this stage, a single data example over rugged ice cover produced a swath up to 7 km with the desired height precision as estimated from interferometric correlation data. While a systematic calibration, including assessment and modeling of biases, due to penetration of the electromagnetic waves into the snow cover has not yet been addressed, these initial results indicate that we will exceed our system requirements. © 2006 IEEE.

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