A Raytheon Co. sensor could someday help scientists determine the impact that aerosols have on the earth's atmosphere. The company's Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor will fly aboard NASA's Glory spacecraft to measure the global distribution of aerosols in the earth's atmosphere, Raytheon said Jan. 11.
The El Segundo, Calif.-based aerospace and defense contractor produced the sensor specifically to meet the aerosol measurement objectives of NASA's Glory mission, said John Barksdale, Raytheon's manager of integrated communications.
Glory arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 11 in preparation for the launch scheduled for Feb. 23.
The sensor currently is not being used in other applications, but additional sensors based on the APS design can be easily manufactured to continue recording global aerosol data beyond the Glory mission life or meet other similar mission requirements, Barksdale said.
The sensor contains 161 optical elements that analyze light of varying wavelengths, including visible and shortwave. The sensor will make measurements from multiple viewing angles in multiple spectral bands while in orbit.
The aerosol measurement capabilities of APS coupled with a cloud-identification function performed by two on-board cloud cameras will allow scientists to determine the global distribution of aerosols and cloud properties, according to NASA.
Different types of aerosols can contribute to heating or cooling, so the concentrations of the aerosol types must be determined to ensure accurate climate modeling, said Bill Hart, Raytheon's vice president of Space Systems.
"Because these particles are transported over long distances by winds, their effects on climate are best studied through space-based observations," Hart said.
Glory will complete a series of 233 orbits of the Earth along differing ground tracks to create a net of observations. This pattern will be repeated every 16 days, according to NASA.