National Physical Laboratory

Vicarious Calibration

Railroad Valley test site visited by NPL in August 2015
Railroad Valley test site visited by NPL in August 2015


The accuracy and reliability of satellite sensor data is of great importance, and much effort goes into characterising such instruments before launch. However, the stress of launch and the extreme environment of space affect the calibration of sensors, introduce additional uncertainty into the data, especially the long time series data necessary to investigate and monitor climate change.

Once in orbit, post-launch calibration is vital to validate the instruments' performance. This is often achieved by using field instruments that measure the light reflected from 'calibration sites' - such as deserts or grassland - which can be viewed by satellite sensors. We are working to provide SI traceability to some of these sites.

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