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NASA’s MURI Instrument Measure Earth’s Surface Temperature

MURI Airborne Sensor: Credit: Leonardo DRS

Ibadan, 10 December 2023. – A new NASA radiometer is now in low Earth orbit, paving the way for future satellite constellations dedicated to measuring infrared energy radiating from Earth’s surface. With development happening at Leonardo DRS with support from NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office, the SpaceX Transporter 6 mission launched the Multiband Uncooled Radiometer Imager (MURI) instrument on Tuesday, January 3, as one of several hosted payloads within Loft Orbital’s YAM5 washing machine-sized satellite.

MURI will test a new technique for measuring Earth’s surface temperature from space using a two-band longwave infrared (10.8um and 12.0um) radiometric imager that utilizes an uncooled focal plane array. Focal plane arrays typically require bulky, heavy cryogenic coolers. However, the MURI instrument is much smaller, lighter, and less power-hungry than traditional radiometers as it is without those coolers.

Weighing just three pounds, MURI will be capable of gathering infrared data with high precision. Furthermore, MURI collected infrared data with absolute radiometric accuracy of < 1% during laboratory and airborne testing. According to the release, the result is world-class for longwave infrared radiometers.

Thermal infrared data describing Earth’s surface temperature is necessary to learn about several complex Earth systems, from wildfires to marine ecosystems. On-orbit operations are planned for at least six months, during which MURI will generate data and imagery comparable to Landsat’s Thermal Infrared Sensor.

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