Highly technical instruments play a large role in SSEC research. The center contributes to both the development of new instruments and the validation and improvement of existing ones, particularly those being prepared for weather satellites. SSEC also provides instrument support for field experiments and other research projects.
AERI upgrades and new deployments—Initially developed during the 1990s, the AERI instruments received an upgrade in 2005. The instruments received new components and software to accommodate the major operating system upgrade. Three existing instruments were upgraded and two new instruments were deployed. Operating in a new rapid sampling mode, these instruments collect almost 50 percent more data.
AERI around the world—AERIs are hard at work around the world. In 2005, eight AERIs made at UW-Madison were taking measurements in midlatitude locations from Oklahoma to Nauru in the Pacific Ocean; two Polar-AERIS (in Barrow, Alaska and in Antarctica) are taking measurements extending into wavelengths normally blocked by water vapor; three Marine-AERIs are operated by the University of Miami; and five AERIs built by Canada’s BOMEM under a UW licensing agreement are in Australia, Italy, California, Maryland and Canada. Seven of the AERIs are contracted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Two new AERIs are being planned for Canada and the UK.
AERIbago upgrades—In preparation for its trip to Memphis, TN for the TAMDAR AERIbago Validation Experiment (TAVE), the ’Bago received a few upgrades. This included a new instrument tower and upgrades to the brakes, engine and air conditioning. It was also outfitted with a new RS-92 GPS Radiosonde System.
Lidar goes north—The Arctic High Spectral Resolution Lidar (AHSRL) headed back to the Arctic Circle in 2005. In the eight months after the AHSRL’s trip to Alaska for M-PACE, engineers in Ed Eloranta’s Lidar group extensively enhanced it for the next field campaign. It worked well in Alaska, but the group wanted it to operate flawlessly for its next challenge, taking measurements for NOAA’s SEARCH program. This program plans to study Arctic climate change in detail, from Eureka Base, a Canadian research outpost on Ellesmere Island. Climate models depend on data retrieved by the AHSRL during field studies.
New radiosonde system—On January 25, 2005, SSEC launched the first meteorological balloon with a new Vaisala radiosonde system. Implementing the new system involved installing a new antenna on the center’s roof, adding to the various and sundry accoutrements atop the building. Wayne Feltz states that the data gathered by this system could be compared with data from other instruments, helping to validate the accuracy of all involved.
GIFTS progress—SSEC delivered state-of-the-art blackbodies to Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab, where the engineering unit (or prototype) of the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer, or GIFTS, is being built and tested. This research instrument with its extremely high spectral resolution would serve as a testbed for future geostationary satellites (GOES) already in the pipeline.
Suzaku flies SSEC technology—In early July, a ground breaking X-ray detector that uses SSEC-developed cooling technology launched aboard the new Japanese observatory, Suzaku. The observatory will collect information about X-rays to help scientists understand more about complex space phenomena like black holes, white dwarves and supernovae. Cooling the detector allows it to detect and measure the heat generated by a single X-ray photon. The data from the observatory will also provide insight into the chemicals required to sustain life. The X-ray detector created by NASA is the primary instrument on the satellite.
SSEC engineers Tony Wendricks and Dave Jones devised the cooling technology inside NASA’s instrument several years ago. They joined forces with Dan McCammon of UW–Madison’s Physics Department to create a small unit to refrigerate X-ray detectors involved in an initial collaboration between the Japanese space agency and NASA.