Date of Award

Spring 2009

Access Restriction

Campus Access only research projects

Degree Name

Master of Science


Systems Engineering

School or College

Seaver College of Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Arnold Galloway


The primary purpose of this Integrative project is to determine whether the mission objectives for NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) could effectively be met on a persistent global basis via a commercially hosted payload concept. NASA's OCO satellite mission was designed to ""make the first space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide ""(Corporation, 2007). The OCO satellite, was destroyed during a failed launch attempt February 2009. The satellite was intended to be a science demonstration satellite with spot coverage and a delayed revist rate. In order for this important mission to be performed in an operational utility (e.g. Kyoto Treaty monitoring) it will be necessary that carbon emissions be measured with persistent global coverage. One potential cost-effective and medium risk solution to meeting the original OCO scientific mission may be achieved by hosting atmospheric carbon dioxide sensors on commercial satellites. An OCO replacement based upon multiple hosted payloads could potentially developed and launched for less than the cost of the first OCO standalone system and is tolerant to single case launch or on-orbit failures. This proposed Integrative Project will document the mission analysis, requirements derivation, trade studies, technology readiness, risk assessment, and ethical considerations necessary to determine whether the proposed hosted payload concept is technically feasible and potentially cost effective.

A significant secondary objective of this project is to document lessons learned from the recently initiated US Air Force Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) project and apply them to the Orbiting Carbon Observatory program. The two programs primary payloads have significant similarities including mass, volume, thermal requirements, power requirements, sensor type, and focal plane technology. The OCO sensor design and the CHIRP sensor are both refractive-optic based infrared sensors with very similar cryocooler requirements and detectors. This association allows lessons learned from the CHIRP proposal technical evaluation to be applied in a non-military sensitive context. Ultimately the design similarity paired with the scientific openness of the NASA science community should adequately document the application of lessons learned from the CHIRP technical evaluation to an important scientific mission for the global community.

RobertThompson_Systems_Presentation_2009.pdf (3116 kB)
Oral Presentation