Tiny 3D imaging sensor could benefit future weather balloon flights and CubeSats

Researchers are evaluating a tiny 3D imaging sensor for balloon weather forecasting that could enable atmospheric probing capabilities – where sensors probe the sky vertically for details of temperature, humidity and water vapour, revealing subtle changes in the earth’s atmosphere.

The first of two NASA-supported flight tests for the 3D imaging sensor – called CubeSounder – was conducted earlier this month on a high-altitude Stratollite balloon from Tucson-based World View Enterprises. During the test, the balloon reached a stratospheric altitude of approximately 70,000 feet.

According to NASA, over 100 hours of flight, the CubeSounder collected atmospheric temperature and humidity data in the form of 3D images – data that could ultimately be transmitted at high speed from CubeSats or weather balloons and compared to other meteorological satellites and ground stations.

The Arizona State University team now plans to make improvements and any necessary fixes to the design of the 3D imaging sensor before testing an improved version on a second NASA-supported balloon flight later this year. .

The CubeSounder is supposed to improve current atmospheric sounders by reducing the weight, size and power requirements of the sensor by approximately 10 times.