UNH Space Scientists Awarded
Over $8 Million To Build Unique Detector For Next-Generation Weather
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
Aug. 24, 2005
DURHAM, N.H. – Astrophysicist Jim Connell’s Angle Detecting
Inclined Sensors (ADIS) system is simple and elegant in its design,
reliable in operation, and relatively inexpensive. In part because
of those merits, an ADIS-based instrument was recently selected
for the future National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental
Satellite System. A team of scientists, engineers, and students
at the University of New Hampshire will design and construct two
identical instruments for delivery sometime in 2010-11.
NPOESS is a multi-agency, multibillion-dollar program that consolidates
existing polar-orbiting, Earth-observing satellite systems under
a single, ongoing national program. These next-generation satellites
collect and disseminate data on Earth's weather, atmosphere, oceans,
land, and near-space environment. The polar orbiters are able to
monitor the entire planet and provide data for long-range weather
and climate forecasts. In addition, they are able to monitor the
forces that control “space weather” ?– coronal
mass ejections from the sun and disturbances in the Earth's magnetic
field – and this is where ADIS comes in.
ADIS is the heart of an instrument called the High Energy Particle
Sensor or HEPS, which is currently being designed by a UNH team
headed by Connell of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans,
and Space (EOS) and the Department of Physics. The HEPS-ADIS instrument
will identify high-energy, heavy ions (charged particles) in space
that can bombard, damage, and disable spacecraft electronics, and
can be a danger to humans in space or on polar-route aircraft.
“When there’s a big solar event nasty things happen
to electronics in space, including satellites dying – satellites
that cost hundreds of millions of dollars - so there’s an
obvious interest in trying to detect these ions,” says Connell.
For example, a direct hit on a microcircuit by a heavy ion like
iron could deal a fatal blow to spacecraft electronics.
For the current project, UNH is a subcontractor to Ball Aerospace
and Technologies Corporation of Boulder, Colorado, which will provide
the Space Environmental Sensor Suite for spacecraft constructed
by Northrop Grumman Space Technology, the prime contractor for the
project. Connell notes that the UNH team will build two HEPS instruments
at a cost of more than $8 million for a spacecraft that will carry
a host of instruments, some of which will cost over $100 million
Traditionally, energetic ions have been identified by complicated
position-sensing detectors that require more electronics, more power,
and more computational corrections to calculate the angle of incidence
that, in turn, helps identify the ion. But by virtue of a series
of oval-shaped, quarter-sized inclined sensors, ADIS can identify
ions with relative ease.
Says Connell, “What’s unique about ADIS is that it is
a very simple and conservative approach in terms of the technology,
which is what you want for an operational mission – the instruments
have to be very reliable.” And yet, despite its simplicity,
ADIS can collect data above and beyond the mission goals, and the
device – and perhaps generations of ADIS-like instruments
– will provide scientists with a wealth of information that
can be used for science for years to come.
In addition to ADIS’s design and operational strengths, UNH
is well positioned to continue work in the business of detecting
high-energy, heavy ions. Connell and colleagues Bruce McKibben and
Cliff Lopate have a long history investigating heavy ions (first
at the University of Chicago and now as members of the UNH Space
Science Center) and there is a rich heritage of similar work that
has been done at UNH over the last 50 years. The shared vision in
the SSC amongst scientists, technicians, and students is to continue
to build a series of ADIS-based instruments for a variety of space
missions well into the future.
Berrien Moore, director of EOS, noted the elegance of the ADIS concept,
the university’s long tradition of delivering exceptional
space instrumentation to the nation, and the brilliant future based
upon ADIS and other recent NASA awards to EOS for space hardware.
NPOESS is a Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, and National
Aeronautic and Space Administration program and is managed by the
Integrated Program Office within the DOC's National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. For more information, visit http://www.ipo.noaa.gov.
For more on the UNH Space Science Center, visit http://www.eos.unh.edu/Resctr/SSC.