The USU Space Dynamics Laboratory mission will launch Thursday at NASA
After years of research and development, Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory mission to study weather changes in the atmosphere from the International Space Station will finally begin. But first, the technology based on Logan will need to successfully launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday evening.
The Atmospheric Wave Experiment, or AWE, will first mount an infrared telescope developed at the Space Dynamics Laboratory to the outside of the International Space Station.
“(The telescope) will look at the Earth’s atmosphere from a specific area, with the ultimate goal of better understanding how Earth’s weather, or terrestrial weather, affects space weather,” Bert Lamborn, AWE project manager, said in an interview on Wednesday. Or weather higher in the atmosphere.
Atmospheric gravity waves, or AGWs, are created when air is displaced by Earth’s weather or topography, such as over a mountain, and then disrupts the stable air above it, according to the National Weather Service.
Why are these waves important? A better understanding of this type of weather is critical to protecting satellites and other technology in orbit, “as space weather can disrupt communications and navigation systems and impact spacecraft,” according to the AWE mission website.
“This is the first time that AGWs, especially small ones, have been measured globally at the halfway point, which is the gateway to space,” Michael Taylor, a professor of physics at Utah State and the mission’s principal investigator, said at a NASA news conference. Press release last month. “More importantly, this is the first time we will be able to measure the effects of AGWs on space weather.”
The AWE mission marks the first time SDL has been the prime contractor — meaning the Cache County-based lab is responsible for nearly all aspects of the project — for a mission of this size. Although NASA officially selected the mission for development in 2019, research and hardware design for a project like AWE began in 2015.
“After launch, the data will come to the Space Dynamics Laboratory, where we will partially process it, and then send it to Utah State University for final processing,” Lamborn said Wednesday.
If all goes well, the telescope will start sending data back to Earth about a week after launch, Lambord said, adding: “It will take a few months before the data is fully processed and released to the scientific community for further analysis.”
The AWE mission is scheduled to fly around 6:28 p.m. GMT on Thursday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This mission is part of SpaceX’s 29th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
To watch the launch, tune into NASA TV, the NASA app, the NASA YouTube page, or watch the launch on the NASA website.