A solar instrument panel designed and built by a University of Colorado Boulder lab and considered a key tool to help monitor the planets climate is at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida awaiting a November launch.
The instrument suite is called the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor, or TSIS-1. It will launch on a commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a Dragon capsule for delivery to the International Space Station.
Once there, it will monitor the total amount of sunlight hitting Earth, as well as how the light is distributed among the ultraviolet, visible and infrared wavelengths.
We need to measure both because both affect Earths climate, said Dong Wu, the TSIS-1 project scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
TSIS-1 was designed and built by CU Boulders Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, or LASP, for NASA Goddard. The contract value to LASP is $90 million and includes the instrument suite and an associated mission ground system.
CU Boulder professor Peter Pilewskie of LASP, lead mission scientist on the project, said TSIS will continue a 39-year record of measuring total solar radiation, the longest continuous climate record from space.
These measurements are vital for understanding the climate system because the sun is the source of virtually all of Earths energy, said Pilewski, also a faculty member in the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences. How the atmosphere responds to subtle changes in the suns output helps us distinguish between natural and human influences on climate.
Overall satellite measurements of the sun from space have shown that changes in its radiation during periods of both high and low solar activity measure only about 0.1 percent. While scientists believe changes in solar output cannot explain Earths recent warming, a longer data set could reveal greater swings in solar radiation.
One of TSISs two instruments LASPs Spectral Irradiance Monitor will measure how light from the sun is distributed by wavelength and absorbed by different parts of the plants atmosphere and surface.
This is important because measurements of the suns UV radiation are critical to understanding the conditions of Earths protective ozone layer, Pilewski said.
The TSIS instrument suite will be operated remotely from the LASP Space Technology Building in the CU Research Park.
The project involved about 30 scientists and engineers at LASP during its peak, as well as 10 support personnel from Colorado and another 10 people elsewhere, TSIS-1 project manager Brian Boyle said. The mission, slated to run at least five years, also has involved about 15 to 20 CU Boulder undergraduate and graduate students.
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