A team of engineers and scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has obtained federal funds to develop a sodium light detection and ranging technology for the space agency to study Earth’s mesosphere.
NASA said Tuesday the lidar instrument will help researchers conduct studies on the relationship between the chemistry and dynamics of the mesosphere located 40 to 100 miles above the planet’s surface.
The agency aims to deploy the technology on the International Space Station if it passes flightworthiness tests.
NASA’s Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science and Center Innovation programs currently sponsor the development of the space-based sodium lidar.
The project builds on a previous agency investment on Sounders, a greenhouse detection instrument that was built to measure the amount of carbon dioxide and methane in the planet’s atmosphere.
Mike Krainak, a laser expert at Goddard Space Flight Center, said that the agency will apply lessons learned from the CO2 and Methane Sounders to further develop the sodium lidar.
“Instead of carbon dioxide and methane, we’re detecting sodium because of what it can tell us about the small-scale dynamics occurring in the mesosphere,” said Diego Janches, scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center.
NASA also seeks to demonstrate an environmentally-tested engineering unit of the laser to meet technology-readiness level six of flight development requirements.