Press Release

AeroAstro-built STPSat-1 Spacecraft Positions for Shuttle Plume

By SpaceRef Editor
August 9, 2007
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AeroAstro-built STPSat-1 Spacecraft Positions for Shuttle Plume

AeroAstro today announced that STPSat-1 payload, SHIMMER, has successfully gathered data from the June 8th launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Twenty-four hours before the launch, operators at the Space Development and Test Wing, Kirtland AFB, NM rolled the spacecraft 0.66 degrees by ground command to point the payload to a higher altitude to observe the vapor plume put off by the STS-117 mission.

The Space Shuttle uses liquid oxygen and hydrogen to fuel its boosters. This results in over 400 metric tons of water being released into the atmosphere. “By looking at the exhaust plume at 115 km altitude, we can analyze whether or not this matter is transferred toward the poles,” said Chris Englert, Principal Investigator for SHIMMER. “Further, this should give the SHIMMER experimenters insight into how water transport works in this section of the upper atmosphere, as there is little water naturally occurring in this region.”

SHIMMER (Spatial Heterodyne Imager for Mesospheric Radicals), the primary experiment on STPSat-1, is a high-resolution ultraviolet spectrometer based on the new optical technique known as Spatial Heterodyne Spectroscopy (SHS).

About the STPSat-1 Spacecraft

STPSat-1 continues the Space Development and Test Wing’s mission to provide access to space for DoD-sponsored experiments. The spacecraft’s elegant design incorporated both proven technical design from previous missions and advanced technologies. The satellite construction was tailored for the highly constrained ESPA environment and included advances in electronics packaging, space materials and manufacturing techniques.

About AeroAstro

AeroAstro, founded in 1988, is a leader in innovative microsatellite systems, components, and advanced communications technologies. AeroAstro was the prime contractor for STPSat-1 responsible for spacecraft design and fabrication, integration of all experiments, space vehicle testing, launch integration support, launch and early orbit operations support, and post-launch mission operations support.


SHIMMER, the Spatial Heterodyne Imager for Mesospheric Radicals is the primary payload of STPSat-1, a small satellite launched in March 2007 with a minimum lifetime of one year. SHIMMER will use Spatial Heterodyne Spectroscopy (SHS) to measure the limb brightness at 32 tangent altitudes with high spectral resolution (0.012nm) in a narrow bandpass around 308 nm. The solar resonance fluorescence of hydroxyl (OH) will be reduced from the limb profiles and inverted to provide OH concentration profiles for low to mid latitudes (up to 57 degrees). Since OH is a good proxy for water vapor in the upper mesosphere and lower thermosphere, water vapor concentrations will also be available from the data. We will review the basics of SHS, its differences and similarities to other spectroscopic techniques, and its suitability for the measurement of middle atmospheric OH in the UV. The specific design of SHIMMER on STPSat-1, which includes a monolithic SHS interferometer, will be presented. We will give a brief overview of the primary science goals of the SHIMMER on STPSat-1 mission and discuss the projected scientific return in context of its latitudinal coverage, atmospheric lighting conditions, and planned operations. In conclusion we will discuss the ability to make Polar Mesospheric Cloud observations with this instrument and how it can complement the NASA AIM (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere) mission, scheduled for launch in late 2006. SHIMMER is a joint effort between the Naval Research Laboratory and the DoD Space Test Program.

SpaceRef staff editor.