Many atmospheric research aircraft use a standard canister design to mount instruments, as this significantly facilitates their electrical and mechanical integration and thereby reduces cost. Based on more than 30 years of airborne science experience with the Microwave Temperature Profiler (MTP), the MTP has been repackaged with state-of-the-art electronics and other design improvements to fly in one of these standard canisters.

All of the controlling electronics are integrated on a single 4×5-in. (≈10×13-cm) multi-layer PCB (printed circuit board) with surface-mount hardware. Improved circuit design, including a self-calibrating RTD (resistive temperature detector) multiplexer, was implemented in order to reduce the size and mass of the electronics while providing increased capability. A new microcontroller-based temperature controller board was designed, providing better control with fewer components. Five such boards are used to provide local control of the temperature in various areas of the instrument, improving radiometric performance. The new stepper motor has an embedded controller eliminating the need for a separate controller board.

The reference target is heated to avoid possible emissivity (and hence calibration) changes due to moisture contamination in humid environments, as well as avoiding issues with ambient targets during ascent and descent. The radiometer is a double-sideband heterodyne receiver tuned sequentially to individual oxygen emission lines near 60 GHz, with the line selection and intermediate frequency bandwidths chosen to accommodate the altitude range of the aircraft and mission.

This work was done by Michael J. Mahoney and Richard F. Denning of Caltech and Jack Fox of NCAR for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46737

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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