The SeaWinds scatterometer was launched on the NASA QuikSCAT spacecraft in June 1999 and is planned for the Japanese ADEOS-II mission in 2000. In addition to generating a global Ku-band backscatter data set useful for a variety of climate studies, these flights will provide ocean-surface wind estimates for use in operational weather forecasting. SeaWinds employs a compact "pencil-beam" design rather than the "fan-beam" approach previously used with SASS on Seasat, NSCAT on ADEOS-I, and the AMI scatterometer on ERS-1, 2. As originally envisioned and reported, the resolution of the SeaWinds backscatter measurements were to be antenna-beamwidth limited. In order to satisfy an emerging demand for higher resolution backscatter data, however, the SeaWinds signal-processing design has been significantly modified. Here, the various options considered for improving the resolution of the SeaWinds measurements are discussed, and the selected hardware modification (the addition of deramp processing for range discrimination) is described. The radar equation specific to a rotating pencil-beam scatterometer with digital range filtering is developed, and the new challenges associated with calibrating the resulting improved resolution measurements are discussed. A formulation for assessing the variance of the measurements due to fading and thermal noise is presented. Finally, the utility of improved resolution SeaWinds measurements for land and ice studies is demonstrated by simulated enhanced-resolution imaging of a synthetic Earth backscatter scene.
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