The global and regional quantification of methane fluxes and identification of its sources and sinks has been highlighted as one of the goals of the NASA 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey. Detecting methane from space and airborne platforms with an active (laser) remote sensing instrument presents several unique technology and measurement challenges. The instrument must have a single frequency, narrow-linewidth light source, and photon-sensitive detector at the right spectral region to make continuous measurements from orbit, day and night, all seasons and at all latitudes. It must have a high signal to noise ratio and must be relatively immune to biases from aerosol/cloud scattering, spectroscopic and meteorological data uncertainties, and instrument systematic errors.
At Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), in collaboration with industry, we have developed an airborne instrument to measure methane. Our instrument is a nadir-viewing lidar that uses Integrated Path Differential Absorption (IPDA), to measure methane near 1.65 μm. We sample the absorption line using multiple wavelengths from a narrow linewidth laser source and a sensitive photodetector. This measurement approach provides maximum information content about the CH4 column, and minimizes biases in the XCH4 retrieval.
In this paper, we will review our progress to date and discuss the technology challenges, options and tradeoffs to measure methane from space and airborne platforms.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has been developing lidar to remotely measure CO2 and CH4 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The ultimate goal is to make space-based satellite measurements with global coverage. We are working on maturing the technology readiness of a fiber-based, 1.57-micron wavelength laser transmitter designed for use in atmospheric CO2 remote-sensing. To this end, we are building a ruggedized prototype to demonstrate the required power and performance and survive the required environment.
We are building a fiber-based master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) laser transmitter architecture. The laser is a wavelength-locked, single frequency, externally modulated DBR operating at 1.57-micron followed by erbium-doped fiber amplifiers. The last amplifier stage is a polarization-maintaining, very-large-mode-area fiber with ~1000 μm2 effective area pumped by a Raman fiber laser. The optical output is single-frequency, one microsecond pulses with >450 μJ pulse energy, 7.5 KHz repetition rate, single spatial mode, and < 20 dB polarization extinction.
We report on an airborne demonstration of atmospheric methane (CH4) measurements with an Integrated Path Differential Absorption (IPDA) lidar using an optical parametric oscillator (OPO) and optical parametric amplifier (OPA) laser transmitter and a sensitive avalanche photo detector. The lidar measures the CH4 absorption at multiple, discrete wavelengths around 1650.9 nm. In September 2015, the instrument was deployed on NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory and measured atmospheric methane over a wide range of topography and weather conditions from altitudes of 3 km to 13 km. In this paper, we will review the results from our flights, and identify areas of improvement.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is working on maturing the technology readiness of a laser transmitter designed for use in atmospheric CO2 remote-sensing. GSFC has been developing an airplane-based CO2 lidar instrument over several years to demonstrate the efficacy of the instrumentation and measurement technique and to link the science models to the instrument performance. The ultimate goal is to make space-based satellite measurements with global coverage. In order to accomplish this, we must demonstrate the technology readiness and performance of the components as well as demonstrate the required power-scaling to make the link with the required signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR). To date, all the instrument components have been shown to have the required performance with the exception of the laser transmitter. In this program we are working on a fiber-based master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) laser transmitter architecture where we will develop a ruggedized package and perform the relevant environmental tests to demonstrate TRL-6. In this paper we will review our transmitter architecture and progress on the performance and packaging of the laser transmitter.