Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

New Earth-Observing Instrument Makes Successful Balloon Flight
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 28, 2014

A NASA high-altitude balloon is inflated with helium in preparation for the HySICS science demonstration flight. Image courtesy NASA Balloon Program Office.

In New Mexico on the morning of Aug. 18, a high-altitude balloon successfully carried the HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS) instrument to an altitude of 123,000 feet, above most of the Earth's atmosphere, to reach space-like conditions and demonstrate new technologies for acquiring high-accuracy science measurements of the Earth.

Scientists use outgoing shortwave radiance, or the amount of sunlight scattered from Earth's surface and atmosphere and reflected back toward space, as one of the key metrics for studying our planet's dynamic climate. Watching these radiances over time helps researchers monitor and better understand the causes of environmental changes and global warming.

NASA's Earth-observing satellites have long collected radiance measurements of the Earth. But recent technology advances could lead to future measurements with higher levels of accuracy than what is currently available to researchers. These next generation data would enable clear climate change detections in years instead of decades, thus allowing more timely and accurate climate trend detection.

To provide the instrumentation capable of such high-accuracy measurements, NASA's Earth Science Technology Office funded Greg Kopp of the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics to develop HySICS, an instrument able to make ultraviolet-to-infrared radiance measurements of the Earth.

The instrument's spectral range, spanning 350 to 2300 nm in wavelength, is critical as it covers most of the sun's emitted energy. The high-accuracy data HySICS collects could give insight into how much of the sun's radiative energy is reflected by the Earth's surface and atmosphere, an important component for climate research.

HySICS' first flight took place on Sept. 29, 2013, from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. That engineering flight gave Kopp and his team flight experience and data necessary to refine the instrument in preparation for this month's science demonstration flight, also from Fort Sumner.

After a successful mid-morning lift-off and reaching an altitude high enough to provide the imager with nearly a 7-kilometer field of view of the ground, HySICS collected science data and self-calibrated by periodically taking radiance measurements of the sun and moon. The calibration against the sun's known emitted energy provides the instrument with a reference point that allows it to collect such high-accuracy data of the Earth.

The precision pointing that is critical to calibrations using HySICS' three differing targets - the Earth, sun, and moon - during one short flight was made possible by the Wallops Arc Second Pointer (WASP), a balloon-based tool originally developed for planetary scientists to aim their instruments at distant items of interest.

WASP, developed at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, took its first balloon test flight in 2011 and another engineering flight in 2012. After extensive testing, WASP was partnered with its first science instrument, HySICS, for the radiance instrument's inaugural engineering flight.

From liftoff to landing, HySICS and WASP were airborne for nearly nine hours. When the team had collected enough data to test the accuracy of the instrument, the balloon payload was separated from the balloon itself and was safely carried back to the ground via parachutes, landing between two threatening thunderstorms. The payload landed east of Holbrook, Arizona.

The flight was deemed both an operational and science success. The HySICS team was able to collect high-quality radiance measurements throughout the flight and has now returned the instrument to Boulder to process and analyze the on-board data.

When this analysis is completed, the HySICS team will learn if they have reached their goal of collecting the most accurate shortwave radiance measurements ever taken of the Earth - an important milestone for future technology developments and the researchers who could someday incorporate such data to create more reliable climate models.


Related Links
NASA Earth Science Technology Office
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Sentinel-1 poised to monitor motion
Paris (ESA) Aug 28, 2014
Although it was only launched a few months ago and is still being commissioned, the new Sentinel-1A radar satellite has already shown that it can be used to generate 3D models of Earth's surface and will be able to closely monitor land and ice surface deformation. As the first in a fleet of satellite missions for Europe's Copernicus environmental monitoring programme, Sentinel-1A was launc ... read more

China Aims for the Moon, Plans to Bring Back Lunar Soil

Electric Sparks May Alter Evolution of Lunar Soil

China to test recoverable moon orbiter

China to send orbiter to moon and back

Scientist uncovers red planet's climate history in unique meteorite

A Salty, Martian Meteorite Offers Clues to Habitability

Opportunity Mars Rover Suffers a Series of Resets

Mars Rover Team Chooses Not to Drill 'Bonanza King'

US to Stop Using Soyuz Spacecraft, Invest in Domestic Private Space Industry

25 Years After Neptune: Reflections on Voyager

Long-term spaceflights challenged as harm to astronauts' health revealed

Voyager Map Details Neptune's Strange Moon Triton

Same-beam VLBI Tech monitors Chang'E-3 movement on moon

China Sends Remote-Sensing Satellite into Orbit

More Tasks for China's Moon Mission

China's Circumlunar Spacecraft Unmasked

NASA Awaits Boeing's Completion of Soyuz Replacement

Belka and Strelka, the canine cosmonauts

Russian Cosmonauts Conclude EVA Ahead of Schedule

Orbital cargo ship makes planned re-entry to Earth

Sea Launch Takes Proactive Steps to Address Manifest Gap

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

Russian Cosmonauts Carry Out Science-Oriented Spacewalk Outside ISS

Optus 10 delivered to French Guiana for Ariane 5 Sept launch

Orion Rocks! Pebble-Size Particles May Jump-Start Planet Formation

Rotation of Planets Influences Habitability

Planet-like object may have spent its youth as hot as a star

Young binary star system may form planets with weird and wild orbits

Argonne scientists pioneer strategy for creating new materials

The power of salt

Researchers map quantum vortices inside superfluid helium nanodroplets

Laser pulse turns glass into a metal

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.