An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new technologies that help to measure Earth's radiation imbalance, which is the difference between the amount of energy from the Sun that reaches Earth and the amount that is reflected and emitted back into space. That difference, estimated to be less than one percent, is responsible for global warming and climate change.
Designed to measure the amount of reflected solar and thermal energy that is emitted into space, RAVAN employs two technologies that have never before been used on an orbiting spacecraft: carbon nanotubes that absorb outbound radiation and a gallium phase change blackbody for calibration.
Among the blackest known materials, carbon nanotubes absorb virtually all energy across the electromagnetic spectrum. Their absorptive property makes them well suited for accurately measuring the amount of energy reflected and emitted from Earth.
Gallium is a metal that melts -- or changes phase -- at around body temperature, making it a consistent reference point. RAVAN's radiometers measure the amount of energy absorbed by the carbon nanotubes, and the gallium phase change cells monitor the stability of the radiometers.
RAVAN began collecting and sending radiation data on Jan. 25 and has now been in operation for well past its original six-month mission timeframe.
"We've been making Earth radiation measurements with the carbon nanotubes and doing calibrations with the gallium phase change cells, so we've successfully met our mission objectives," said Principal Investigator Bill Swartz of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
He and his team are now monitoring RAVAN in the longer term to see how much the instrument changes over time and are also performing data analysis and comparing its measurements with existing model simulations of outgoing Earth radiation.
While the technology demonstration comprises a single CubeSat, in practice a future RAVAN mission would operate many CubeSats in a constellation. Instruments for measuring Earth's outgoing energy are currently housed aboard a few large satellites, and while they have a high spatial resolution they cannot observe the entire planet simultaneously the way a constellation of RAVAN CubeSats could, Swartz explained.
"We know that outgoing radiation from Earth varies widely over time depending on variables such as clouds or aerosols or temperature changes," Swartz said. "A constellation can provide a global, 24/7 coverage that would improve these measurements."
"This successful technology demonstration realizes the potential of a new observation scenario to get at a very difficult measurement using constellation missions," said Charles Norton, program area associate for the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "In terms of its impact for CubeSats and Smallsats for NASA, I think It has helped to bring forward another example of how this platform can be successfully used for technology maturation, validation and science."
RAVAN and other Earth science CubeSat missions are funded and managed by NASA's Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) in the Earth Science Division. ESTO supports technologists at NASA centers, industry and academia to develop and refine new methods for observing Earth from space, from information systems to new components and instruments.
Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA, including: planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities.
Robert Gutro | EurekAlert!
Stagnation in the South Pacific Explains Natural CO2 Fluctuations
23.02.2018 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals
22.02.2018 | University of Arizona
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy