Design and performance of a high-stability water vapor radiometer



[1] The design of two new high-stability microwave water vapor radiometers is presented along with a performance evaluation. The radiometers operate next to a spacecraft tracking station at NASA's Goldstone facility in California, where they will be used to calibrate tropospheric path delay fluctuations during an upcoming gravity-wave search experiment (GWE) involving the Cassini spacecraft. Observing frequencies of the radiometers are 22.2, 23.8, and 31.4 GHz, and the antenna beam width is 1°. The instruments are room temperature Dicke radiometers with additive noise injection for gain calibration. Design highlights include: (1) a practical temperature control system capable of stabilizing the entire receiver to a few millikelvin from day to night; (2) redundant noise diode injection circuits with 30 ppm RF power stability; and (3) a voice coil actuated waveguide vane attenuator which is used as a high-performance Dicke switch. Performance of the radiometers is evaluated from intercomparisons of the two radiometers and from continuous tip curve calibrations spanning nearly 1 year. Structure function analysis of the intercomparison data indicates that the brightness temperature stability of these radiometers is better than 0.01 K on 1000–10,000 s timescales. Analysis of tip curve calibrations indicates RMS errors of ∼0.05 K on 30-day timescales and 0.15 K on 1-year timescales.