NASA Laboratory for Atmospheres 2005 Instrument Systems Report

Studies of the atmospheres of our solar system's planets - including our own - require a comprehensive set of observations, relying on instruments on spacecraft, aircraft, balloons, and on the surface. These instrument systems perform one or both of the following: 1) provide information leading to a basic understanding of the relationship between atmospheric systems and processes, and 2) serve as calibration references for satellite instrument validation. Laboratory personnel define requirements, conceive concepts, and develop instrument systems for spaceflight missions, and for balloon, aircraft, and ground-based observations. Balloon and airborne platforms facilitate regional measurements of precipitation, cloud systems, and ozone from high-altitude vantage points, but still within the atmosphere. Such platforms serve as stepping-stones in the development of space instruments. Satellites provide nearly global coverage of the Earth with spatial resolutions and repetition rates that vary from system to system. The products of atmospheric remote sensing are invaluable for research associated with water vapor, ozone, trace gases, aerosol particles, clouds, precipitation, and the radiative and dynamic processes that affect the climate of the Earth. These parameters also provide the basic information needed to develop models of global atmospheric processes and weather and climate prediction. Laboratory scientists also participate in the design of data processing algorithms, calibration techniques, and the data processing systems.

The instrument sections of this report are organized by measurement technique, e.g., active, passive, and in situ. Active systems include lidar and microwave radar, passive systems include optical and microwave systems, and systems consist of mass spectrometers for planetary atmosphere measurements. A number of instruments are in various stages of development or modification and are described in the section titled: Research and Development. This section also includes the Brewer Spectrophotometer, which will undergo modification for improved capability, but is used for calibration and scientific measurements. This report will be updated as instrument systems evolve and change.

While this report was being prepared, the Goddard science organizations underwent a transformation that combined the Space and Earth Sciences Directorates. The instrument activities described herein, however, remain current. The merging of Space and Earth Sciences Directorates is expected to bring new opportunities for sciences and exploration.

We wish to thank all of the Laboratory members who contributed material on the various instrument systems, and especially the efforts of Laura Rumburg, Natalie Simms, and Caroline Maswanganye for their formatting, proofreading, editing, and printing support.


Dr. William Lau's signature

William K.-M. Lau, Chief

Chares Cote's signature

Charles E. Cote, Associate Chief