CubeSat Altimeter Constellation Systems: Performance Analysis and Methodology

Yuanhao Li, Peter Hoogeboom, Paco Lopez Dekker, Sung Hoon Mok, Jian Guo, Christopher Buck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Multiple CubeSat altimeters can work independently or corporately to form altimeter constellations. Different configurations of the constellations can acquire distinguished advantages: improved spatial/temporal sampling and high cross-track resolution, which will be helpful for observations of oceanic small-scale structures and weather forecasting. Compared to single conventional altimeters, CubeSat altimeter constellations may achieve better performances with lower costs. To fully understand these systems, this article focuses on the performance analysis and methodology for CubeSat altimeter constellations. Besides the typical analyses of the resolution, revisit, and absolute sea surface height (SSH) accuracy, the performance analysis was conducted by considering the characteristics of multiple measurements provided by CubeSat altimeter constellations. Local and global spatial sampling performances are investigated for various constellations and compared by sampling density and swath size. Moreover, relative SSH accuracy is introduced and evaluated based on the spatial structure functions of errors to effectively evaluate the measurement performance. Related system requirements on power, delta-v, etc., to achieve the performance are also discussed, which ensures that the analysis fits the boundary conditions of implementation. Finally, different concepts of the CubeSat altimeter constellations are compared, where their limitations and possible solutions are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Constellation
  • CubeSat
  • Oceans
  • Performance analysis
  • performance analysis
  • radar altimeter.
  • Sea measurements
  • Sea surface
  • Spatial resolution
  • Surface topography


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