After taking the lead on ocean salinity measurements from SMOS which was the second ESA "Earth Explorer", LOPS is preparing for the future with a proposition of a "Sea surface KInematics Multiscale monitoring mission" (SKIM), submitted on June 15, and now evaluated by ESA. This could be number 9 in the "Earth Explorer" series.
SKIM will open the era of satellite Doppler oceanography, by combining a radar altimeter (in Ka band, 8 mm wavelength), a "disco ball" (rotating gizmo to send some beams to the side) and a "speed gun" (a Dopper analysis to measure the velocity of the ocean from these side beams) . This novel Doppler technique, pioneered by LOPS researchers 13 years ago, will provide measurenments of currents, sea ice drift and wind waves. Planned as a five-year experiment, this mission will address central questions for the understanding of our evolving climate, from the tropical current systems, to the rapidly evolving Arctic marginal ice zone. SKIM will demonstrate the maturity of Doppler oceanography, and pave the way for future Doppler missions. The expected accuracy on horizontal current velocity is 0.1 m/s, at a resolution of about 40 km. Flying on the 12 day-cycle Sentinel 1 (S1) orbit with a shift in longitude, SKIM will have a swath of 270 km that will allow overlap with S1 data and an ideal synergy for currents and wave sampling. SKIM will cover the world ocean up to 82° N, with daily coverage at latitudes beyond 70°, and an average of three passes per cycle at the Equator. This includes the Southern Ocean and both Arctic and Antarctic marginal seas. SKIM will image ocean current features, including eddies of diameter 80 km and more, a considerable extension of planned satellite altimeter missions capabilities. SKIM will also provide directional wave spectrum down to wavelengths of 20 m, and full azimuth coverage without direction ambiguity: these two aspects are clear improvement on existing and planned missions, giving a global coverage of oceans and regional seas.
More information: the SKIM project page