CT for Clouds: A Fleet of Micro-Satellites Will See into the Smallest Clouds

A team led by Prof. Yoav Schechner (EE, Technion), Prof. Ilan Koren (Weizmann Inst.) and Prof. Klaus Schilling (ZfT, Germany) will design, launch and operate a formation of ten nano-satellites that use medically-inspired CT (computed tomography) algorithms to answer climate questions. The space mission, called CloudCT, has won a €14 million European Research Council award through the ERC-Synergy program.

Inspired by medical CT (computed tomography), which observes and maps the interior of a patient, the designers are creating a system that will reveal detailed images of clouds‘ external and internal 3D structures and properties. By probing small cloud fields that are generally missed by today’s remote sensing technologies, the mission may resolve some major uncertainties that limit current atmospheric modelling and climate prediction.

Images in CloudCT will be taken simultaneously from many directions around and above the clouds. This feat will be made possible by a networked self-organizing formation of multiple, affordable, very small and very agile satellites.

CloudCT is pioneering new concepts of Earth observation and the development of sophisticated algorithms in computational imaging,  computer vision, and autonomy of distributed networked systems. It will start to fill in some gaping holes in understanding of clouds, which have a key role in Earth’s energy balance and its water cycle.

Click here to video explaining the research