Ocean surface winds and currents are tightly coupled, essential climate variables, synoptic measurements of which require a remote sensing approach. Global measurements of ocean vector winds have been provided by scatterometers for decades, but a synoptic approach to measuring total vector surface currents has remained elusive. Doppler scatterometry is a coherent burst-scatterometry technique that builds on the long heritage of spinning pencil beam scatterometers to enable the wide-swath, simultaneous measurement of ocean surface vector winds and currents. To prove the measurement concept, NASA funded the DopplerScatt airborne Doppler scatterometer through the Instrument Incubator Program (IIP) and Airborne Instrument Technology Transition (AITT) program. DopplerScatt has successfully shown that pencil beam Doppler scatterometry can be used to form wide swath measurements of ocean winds and currents, and has increased the technology readiness level of key instrument components, including: Ka-band pulsed radar hardware, optimized scatterometer burst-mode operation, calibration techniques, geophysical model functions, and processing algorithms. With the promise and progress shown by DopplerScatt, and the importance of air-sea interactions in mind, the National Academy’s Decadal Survey has targeted simultaneous measurements of winds and currents from a Doppler scatterometer for an Earth Explorer class spaceborne mission. Besides DopplerScatt’s place as a technology stepping stone towards a satellite mission, DopplerScatt provides scientifically important measurements of ocean currents and winds (400 m resolution) and their derivatives (1 km resolution) over a 25 km swath. These measurements are enabling studies of the submesoscales and air-sea interactions that were previously impossible, and are central to the upcoming NASA Earth Ventures Suborbital-3 Submesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE). This paper summarizes the development of DopplerScatt hardware, systems, calibration, and operations, and how advances in each relate to progress towards a spaceborne Doppler scatterometer mission.
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