The Compact Infrared Radiometer in Space

CIRiS: Low Cost. High-Value Scientific Data.

Small but mighty, the CIRiS instrument for NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office , is designed to conduct radiometric imaging of the Earth's surface. CIRiS will fly in Low Earth Orbit, aboard a sensor craft where the instrument makes up the entire spacecraft, which is similar to a CubeSat. This small satellite, is designed by Ball Aerospace and Blue Canyon Technologies with a philosophy to demonstrate innovative technologies in space at a lower cost.

The primary mission is to display two new CubeSat technologies, uncooled microbolometer infrared focal plane arrays (for imaging) and carbon nanotube blackbody sources (for calibration). Although both technologies have flown in space before, the CIRiS mission will be the first time to use these technologies together, in high-performance radiometric imaging which is achieved through very precise, on-orbit and ground calibration.

CIRiS will use its three thermal infrared bands to collect data of extreme storms and mapping of water absorption across agricultural areas. This data will help scientists and decision makers with climate modeling, helping to understand droughts and ocean surface temperature measurements. 

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Scientifically Significant

CIRiS leverages Ball’s more than 40 years of expertise in highly-calibrated instruments for environmental monitoring. By optimizing spacecraft and instrument technology, Ball is able to provide the maximum return to the science community. The CIRiS instrument is based on the Ball Experimental Sea Surface Temperature (BESST) radiometer, (launched when?), which has been  providing critical data on sea surface temperatures and data on disasters such as the 2010 Gulf Oil spill. CIRiS will continue to map seas surface temperatures and record data using smaller, more capable instruments. CIRiS is a critical mission, as we continue to observe Earth and better understand our planet.

CIRiS itself weighs about 1.4 kg (3LBS). The entire spacecraft  is about the size of a shoebox, which reduces cost while delivering significant data previously found only in larger, more expensive missions.

Collecting thermal data from space has previously been a difficult task, due to slow microbolometers . CIRiS is using state-of-the-art calibration that will enable the instrument to perform quicker and more efficient.

What We Are Doing

Ball is responsible for the design, build and integration of the high-performance CIRiS instrument, mission operations, mission analysis and final results. Blue Canyon Technologies is building the spacecraft bus.

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