The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2): spectrometer performance evaluation using pre-launch direct sun measurements
Abstract. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), launched on 2 July 2014, is a NASA mission designed to measure the column-averaged CO2 dry air mole fraction, XCO2. Towards that goal, it will collect spectra of reflected sunlight in narrow spectral ranges centered at 0.76, 1.6 and 2.0 μm with a resolving power (λ/Δ λ) of 20 000. These spectra will be used in an optimal estimation framework to retrieve XCO2. About 100 000 cloud free soundings of XCO2 each day will allow estimates of net CO2 fluxes on regional to continental scales to be determined. Here, we evaluate the OCO-2 spectrometer performance using pre-launch data acquired during instrument thermal vacuum tests in April 2012. A heliostat and a diffuser plate were used to feed direct sunlight into the OCO-2 instrument and spectra were recorded. These spectra were compared to those collected concurrently from a nearby high-resolution Fourier Transform Spectrometer that was part of the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON). Using the launch-ready OCO-2 calibration and spectroscopic parameters, we performed total column scaling fits to all spectral bands and compared these to TCCON results. On 20 April, we detected a CO2 plume from the Los Angeles basin at the JPL site with strongly enhanced short-term variability on the order of 1% (3–4 ppm). We also found good (< 0.5 ppm) inter-footprint consistency in retrieved XCO2. The variations in spectral fitting residuals are consistent with signal-to-noise estimates from instrument calibration, while average residuals are systematic and mostly attributable to remaining errors in our knowledge of the CO2 and O2 spectroscopic parameters. A few remaining inconsistencies observed during the tests may be attributable to the specific instrument setup on the ground and will be re-evaluated with in-orbit data.