Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Penina Axelrad

Second Advisor

Kristine M. Larson

Third Advisor

Dennis Akos

Fourth Advisor

Cinzia Zuffada

Fifth Advisor

Dallas Masters

Abstract

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) provide abundant, opportunistic signals that can be used to probe the Earth’s environment and surface. Utilizing reflected GNSS signals for remote sensing is called GNSS Reflectometry (GNSS-R). Sensing of the ocean, land, and ice, with potentially dense measurement coverage and rapid revisit times, is possible due to the distributed geometry of GNSS constellations. GNSS-R can provide some advantages over other Earth observation systems, like traditional radar altimeters or microwave radiometers. GNSS signals are well characterized and encoded with precise ranging and timing information. There are multiple transmitters in view at any time, and GNSS signals occupy a protected frequency band (L-band) that penetrates Earth’s atmosphere in all weather conditions.

This dissertation focuses on the development of methods and analysis techniques to observe sea surface height and sea ice extent with reflected GNSS signals. A tool-kit is developed to take advantage of experimental data sets from aircraft and spacecraft, and to produce state-of-the-art altimetric retrievals. Algorithms for the re-tracking of altimetric delays are demonstrated. Techniques to characterize and models to correct GNSS-R path delay errors are built through analysis of TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1) and NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) flight data. Neither TDS-1 nor CYGNSS were designed to make precise altimetry observations. Thus, this work evaluates practical performance limitations of these GNSS-R observations, and establishes requirements for future missions. Altimetry results with height retrieval standard deviation of σH = 11 m with 1 sec and σH = 3.8 m with 10 sec observations, are shown.

This work creates a foundation of techniques that can support future GNSS-R missions dedicated to ocean surface altimetry by producing results with sufficient accuracy and precision to the ocean science community. These tools are built to inform future mission designs and aid scientific interpretation of GNSS-R measurements.

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