NASA's new upper atmosphere probe achieves record-breaking flight streak

NASA's Successfully Tests New Atmospheric Sensor Suite

NASA has successfully tested an advanced new atmospheric sensor suite, the Cross-Scale Hybrid-Remote sensing (CSHR) instrument, at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The CSHR instrument was developed to study the changes in Earth's atmosphere over a wide range of scales, from global to local.

The instrument was mounted on an aircraft and flown on a series of test missions between April 26 and May 4, collecting data on temperature, water vapor, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the upper atmosphere. The data collected will aid in improving understanding of climate change, weather patterns, and other atmospheric phenomena.

"The CSHR instrument is a game-changer for studying the atmosphere," said Paul Newman, CSHR co-investigator and professor at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "We can now measure the concentrations of key atmospheric molecules with better precision and spatial resolution over a wide range of scales, from hundreds of thousands of square kilometers down to a few kilometers."

The CSHR instrument combines two proven remote sensing techniques: doppler lidar and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Doppler lidar uses a laser to measure the velocity of air parcels, while FTIR spectroscopy uses an infrared light source to identify the unique spectral "fingerprints" of gases in the atmosphere.

By combining these techniques into one instrument, the CSHR instrument can collect highly accurate data on a wide range of atmospheric molecules, including carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and nitrogen dioxide. These measurements can be used to quantify the distribution of these gases across the atmosphere and track changes over time.

"The CSHR instrument is uniquely capable of studying the atmosphere across a wide range of scales, which is critical for understanding the complex processes that shape our climate and weather," said Scott Wujcik, the CSHR project manager at Goddard.

During the testing period, the CSHR instrument was mounted on a Gulfstream III aircraft, flying at altitudes of 10,000 to 25,000 feet. The instrument operated successfully, recording nearly 100 gigabytes of data during the five flights.

The CSHR instrument will continue to be tested and refined, with plans for additional flights in the future. The information gathered from these tests will help improve atmospheric models and climate projections, as well as support ongoing research into the phenomenon of stratosphere-to-troposphere coupling.

"With the success of this flight campaign, we are excited to see what the CSHR instrument can reveal about the intricate dynamics of our atmosphere," said Gifford Miller, the principal investigator for the CSHR instrument at York University in Toronto, Canada.

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