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Aerosol instrument SPEXone mounted on NASA’s climate satellite

Dutch aerosol instrument SPEXone mounted on NASA's climate satellite

Dutch and American engineers install SPEXone on the PACE satellite. Credit: GSFC

In recent weeks, a group of engineers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Airbus Netherlands and NASA have been working on the installation of the Dutch aerosol instrument SPEXone on NASA’s PACE satellite. PACE will carry out measurements of oceans and aerosols to study the influence of particulate matter on the climate. The launch is scheduled for 2024. The final screw will be tightened on June 23, officially completing the integration.

At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, the climate satellite PACE was waiting for its first measuring instrument when a group of Dutch and American engineers entered the cleanroom on June 8. SPEXone, together with the HARP2 and OCI instruments, will provide the spacecraft with a razor-sharp image of the Earth to measure the color of the oceans and map the properties of aerosols. The Dutch instrument SPEXone, developed by SRON and Airbus Nederland with support from TNO, is responsible for the aerosol measurements together with HARP2 and is now the first instrument integrated on the satellite.

Aerosols are small dust particles in the air, such as soot, ash and desert dust. They have a major impact on air pollution and climate change, but their precise role is not well known. Therefore, global warming scenarios up to the year 2100 vary by about 3 degrees Celsius. Most aerosols reflect light and have a cooling effect on the earth, but they can also have a warming effect through absorption. SPEXone maps the properties of aerosol cans, such as size, shape, composition and absorbent/reflective capacity. It also helps the OCI instrument measure the color of the oceans and thus monitor the amount of plankton. This is because aerosol scattering requires a correction.

Dutch aerosol instrument SPEXone mounted on NASA's climate satellite

Engineer Jochen Campo inspects SPEXone at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Credit: Dennis Henry/GSFC

In February 2021, SPEXone was completed in the Netherlands, in the presence of the Dutch Minister of Science, and transported to Goddard. Since then, the Dutch team has conducted several tests to verify that the instrument had arrived in one piece and survived months of storage. “But this is the most exciting moment”, says SRON engineer Alexander Eigenraam just before his trip to the US. “The alignment has to be perfect. We have to be especially careful that it is not slightly twisted. We mount SPEXone on a vertical side of the satellite “So that makes it extra difficult. And we have to move to NASA’s test systems and electronics. That’s necessary because SPEXone is now docked to the satellite and no longer allowed to connect external computers to it.”

Dutch aerosol instrument SPEXone mounted on NASA's climate satellite

The PACE satellite at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center awaits its first measurement instrument. SPEXone was later mounted on the front. Credit: Dennis Henry/GSFC

The Dutch SPEXone instrument is a candidate to also be part of the European CO2M satellite, which will map CO concentrations2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Aerosols affect CO2 measurements, so an aerosol instrument is needed for corrections.


Aerosol instrument starts measurement campaign in European airspace


Provided by SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research


Quote: Aerosol instrument SPEXone mounted on NASA’s climate satellite (2022, June 23) retrieved June 23, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-aerosol-instrument-spexone-mounted-nasa.html

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