NASA LANGLEY SABER INSTRUMENT TO LAUNCH FRIDAY
Satellite instrument is pioneer for last atmospheric
After 7:07 a.m., Friday, Dec. 7, one of the least explored areas
of our atmosphere will be less of a mystery.
At that time a new NASA Langley Research Center satellite
instrument called SABER
(Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry)
will launch with other research equipment aboard a Delta II rocket
from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SABER will make unique scans
of the Earths atmospheric limb known as the MLTI region --
Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere/Ionosphere.
Unlike the Troposphere the area closest to the Earth
very little is known about this thin, outer layer between 10
and 110 miles in altitude. It is the first shield from the
Suns ultraviolet radiation and contains important gases such
as ozone, water vapor and carbon dioxide. For the first time, these
gases -- that may have a significant effect on the warming and
cooling of the Earths surface -- will be measured by
"This area of the atmosphere has sometimes been called the
ignoro-sphere," said Dr. James Russell, SABER principal
investigator and co-director for the Center of Atmospheric Sciences
at Hampton University. "It has been ignored and not measured. The
atmosphere is a closed system and what you do in one region affects
another. You need collective measurements of all the areas to make
solid, scientific conclusions.
According to Russell, the MLTI may be the last frontier in
atmospheric studies because it is so difficult to measure.
"Satellites dont dip down low enough to be immersed in
it," Russell added. "Rockets go infrequently through the region,
and balloons and aircraft dont go high enough. So this is the
first time well be able to study this rarified region to
determine its connection with the sun and the changes in the
atmosphere on the Earths surface."
Built by Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory and
managed by NASA Langley, SABER is one of four instruments on the
TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and
Dynamics) spacecraft. Scheduled for a two-year mission, the TIMED
instruments combined data collection will examine both
natural and manmade effects on the upper atmosphere.
NASA Langley senior research scientist and SABER associate
principal investigator Marty Mlynczak believes this mission is
important for NASA and Langley. "One of the things that NASA does
is exploration. We have never looked at the Mesosphere and lower
Thermosphere in this much detail so the potential for scientific
discovery and understanding is enormous.
"And Langley brings a lot to this mission. We managed the
development of the instrument and, with the team, developing
radiative transfer codes that are unique in the world. There is a
tremendous amount of work here just to incorporate the specific
physics of the upper atmosphere. When we make measurements of
ozone, water vapor and temperature, it will be done at a very high
accuracy so we dont end up with a poor measurement from a
great instrument but a great instrument with great
SABERs atmospheric scanning will also mark a series of
"firsts" for the scientific community. Its infrared sounding
technique for the MLTI has never been used before in the focused
way SABER will do it. It will mark the first comprehensive global
measurement of the incoming and outgoing radiant energy over a
broad altitude range; it will help in the understanding of climate
change, and SAGE III will a produce a global portrait of how the
upper atmosphere changes over time.
SABER on TIMED is an element of NASA's new Solar Terrestrial
Probes Program. It is also part of a low-cost plan to provide more
frequent access to space for study of the sun-Earth system.
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