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For Release: Aug. 25, 1997

Catherine E. Watson
(757) 864-6122

Release No. 97-107

Media Kits and Video Animation Available

NASA Langley's Contributions to the Lewis Spacecraft

When the Lewis Earth-observing spacecraft was launched into orbit early Sunday morning, it carried with it four experiments from NASA Langley. The four new technology experiments developed at NASA Langley include a spacecraft control system and an instrument that will measure space radiation.

The Lewis spacecraft was built by TRW in Redondo Beach, Calif. as part of NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology Initiative. The Lewis spacecraft will test more than 25 new technologies while on orbit to demonstrate new techniques to help speed the development time and trim the costs of next-generation spacecraft.

"This revolutionary mission development process, bringing together an accelerated development schedule with a large assembly of new technologies, provides a quantum leap to small spacecraft performance and development cost," said Harry Benz, the Lewis project manager at NASA Langley.

The NASA Langley-developed Cloud and Feature Editing Experiment (CAFE) will assist the primary Lewis experiment by detecting cloud obscured images of the Earth. CAFE will ensure that only unobscured images of the Earth's surface are stored and transmitted to the ground for later analysis, thus doubling the useful capacity of Lewis' image collection system.

The Enhanced Attitude Control Experiment will help researchers design better spacecraft attitude control systems, which will lead to an improved quality in measurements made from spacecraft. An improved attitude control system will deal with the many disturbances a spacecraft experiences while on orbit in a much more efficient manner than methods currently in use, ensuring that science instruments aboard the spacecraft remain accurately pointed at their designated areas of study.

The Recorder Interface Module will provide both primary and back-up interfaces between the Lewis data recording system, the science instruments, the onboard computer and the communication subsystem, providing interconnections for data, command, control and telemetry information.

Finally, the Gas Proportional Counter, co-developed by NASA Langley, NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richmond, Wash. will measure naturally occurring radiation in Lewis' low-earth orbit. This radiation data will help researchers design better shielding for both future spacecraft and manned space vehicles, and will provide a background radiation monitor to calibrate other instruments.

The applications of the data obtained by the Lewis experiments are far-reaching. Potential applications include determining crop maturity and the optimum time for harvesting; pinpointing pesticide and fertilizer requirements down to the square yard; measuring the effects of pollution in oceans, rivers and lakes; monitoring ocean color to find prime fish harvesting areas; exploring for oil, minerals and precious metals; and helping state, federal and international law enforcement officials find illegal drug crops in remote locations.

A large, broad-based team of industry, small businesses, NASA centers and universities will use the Lewis data to develop commercial products and further research goals. An associated secondary education program also will use the Lewis data to help train a new generation of American scientists.

"This unique opportunity to commercially partner with industrial developers in a two-year joint development program was an enriching experience, and gave the Langley team a hands-on opportunity to bring several important new technologies to flight," Benz said.

NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology Initiative (SSTI) was developed by the NASA Office of Space Access and Technology to advance the state of technology and reduce the costs associated in the design, integration, launch and operation of small satellites. SSTI's overall mission is to advance U.S. leadership in space technology, while benefiting science, technology, commerce and education.

NOTE: Lewis media kits, including video B-roll, are available by calling (757) 864-6122.

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