PoSSUM Aeronomy Program

PoSSUM Aeronomy Research Program

The PoSSUM Aeronomy Program provides a practical education for the professional interested in upper-atmospheric research from research aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital spacecraft. Emphasis is on the study of noctilucent clouds from research aircraft, the design of space instrumentation and on mission specific training for suborbital noctilucent cloud tomography missions. This Program has been co-developed by Project PoSSUM, Integrated Spaceflight Services, Columbia University, GATS, Inc., and Aerospatial Systems.

What we do

Airborne Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds

Project PoSSUM partners with Aerospatial Systems to conduct airborne imagery and remote sensing of noctilucent cloud structures from High Level, Alberta using a Turbo Mooney research aircraft. Individual sorties are designed to compensate for solar motion and synchronize with the AIM satellite, which observes noctilucent cloud structures from space, and with terrestrial observation sites to facilitate tomographic reconstruction. These images are used to test the low-latitude thresholds of space-based imagery and qualify instrumentation for PoSSUM high-altitude balloon and suborbital spacecraft missions.

 

PMC Campaign Logo

High-Altitude Balloon Imaging of Noctilucent Clouds

PoSSUM camera systems were designed to fly on a high-altitude, NASA-funded balloon in support of the imagery experiment around the Antarctic polar vortex for two weeks in December 2017. Project PoSSUM works in partnership with GATS, Columbia University, and Integrated Spaceflight Services. PoSSUM Graduates are engaged in the instrument development, operations, and educational outreach efforts in this novel experiment that will study atmospheric dynamics that can only be viewed in exquisite detail through very high resolution imagery techniques.

Noctilucent cloud microfeatures shown through serendipitous observations from a 2012 cosmology mission by Columbia University. PoSSUM missions are dedicated to the observations of these fine structures.

Manned Suborbital Tomography of Noctilucent Clouds

PoSSUM seeks to answer two critical questions relating to our understanding of our upper atmosphere: 1) we will employ noctilucent cloud and OH-layer imaging and tomography to characterize the roles of gravity wave and instability dynamics in the mixing and transport processes of the upper atmosphere, and 2)  we will characterize the geometry of noctilucent cloud particles to better understand their growth and sublimation processes. The PoSSUMCam system will be used to obtain high-resolution imagery of noctilucent clouds microfeatures as the spacecraft passes through the cloud layer, much like an MRI creates 3D representations of the human body.  These images will be used to build extremely high-resolution models of the small-scale structures of noctilucent cloud layers through modeling algorithms developed for the program. These structures have been difficult to resolve from previous means of observation from space-based or ground-based imagers but are believed to contain most of the information pertaining to energy and momentum deposition in the upper atmosphere.

PoSSUM Aeronomy Courses

AER 101: Airborne Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds (3 credits)

Jason Reimuller, right, and Dr. Sarah Jane Pell, are seated and preparing to take off with help from Jorge Latre. Jason Reimuller, a scientist who is principal investigator at PoSSUM, a Bolder-based outfit involved in suborbital scientific exploration of the upper mesosphere, supervised a test of a spacesuit designed for use in research aircraft at the Boulder Municipal Airport on Saturday. Dr. Sarah Jane Pell was wearing the spacesuit for testing. For more photos and a video, go to www.dailycamera.com. Cliff Grassmick  Staff Photographer  July 30, 2016

AER 101 provides a foundation in flight research. Students will learn how to integrate and test imagery systems to aircraft and then organize operational field campaigns and sorties using PoSSUM research aircraft to study noctilucent clouds in annual field campaigns based from High Level, AB. Students will train for one of two in-flight roles: navigator or instrument operator. Students will also participate in coordinated ground observation campaigns to facilitate tomographic reconstruction of airborne images. Students will learn to operate at high-altitudes (up to 23K’) in unpressurized aircraft. Transportation to High Level is organized from Edmonton, AB.

AER 102: Suborbital Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds (3 credits)

PoSSUM Educator trainees learning simulator operations

AER 102 provides mission specific training in preparation for suborbital PoSSUM noctilucent clouds tomography missions using manned reusable suborbital vehicle from a high-latitude spaceport. A comprehensive background to mission operations will be provided and previous in-flight POSSUM 2D and Virtual Reality NLC imagery will be studied. Skills introduced in the introductory PoSSUM program are refined with the flight team to be used in actual suborbital flight. This program is free and restricted to PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut candidates with flight reservations.

AER 103: Suborbital Space Environment (3 credits)

mesosphere

AER 103 provides an understanding of the general properties and characteristics of the geospace environment and the underlying physical mechanisms. The student will understand the fundamentals of aeronomy, study of the atomospheric environment of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) region of the atmosphere. Special emphasis is given to the to environmental hazards most relevant to the operations of manned spacecraft, including particles and radiation, impact phenomena, spacecraft charging, aerodynamic drag, and oxygen corrosion of surfaces.

AER 104: Celestial Navigation for Space Missions (2 credits)

sextant

AER 104 includes practical instruction in celestial navigation and how it pertains to suborbital and orbital imaging imaging and remote sensing missions. The course provides the skills necessary to navigate by use of a sextant and sight reduction tables. Topics include: selecting stars for navigation, use of a sextant, use of correction factors (e.g. refraction, dip, instrument error), use of sight reduction tables, and the determination of longitude and latitude using an Earth-based coordinate system.

AER 105: Spaceport Licensing and FAA Regulations (2 credits)

faa

PoSSUM aeronomy research is often required where existing spaceport infrastructure is lacking. AER 105 is a practical course where students learn about FAA regulations that pertain to commercial space as well as the spaceport licensing process. Students participate in a team project relating to vehicle, mission, or spaceport certification.

AER 106: Space Technologies for Aeronomy Applications (3 credits)

pmc turbo image

AER 106 students are provided a mentor to conceptualize, receive funding support, and fly their science or technology experiments or mature a space technology related to imagery and remote sensing. This technology may be designed to fly on aircraft, high-altitude balloon, suborbital or orbital spacecraft. PoSSUM Members have designed imagery systems, LiDAR systems, neutral and charged particle detectors, and temperature profilers for aeronomy observations, as well as space-qualified enclosures supporting PoSSUM camera systems.

To receive the PoSSUM Graduate Credential in Aeronomy

REQUIRED: AER 101, AER 103, AER 104 – $4500

SELECT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING ELECTIVES: AER 102, AER 105, AER 106

Upcoming Programs

AER 101: Airborne Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds

Date: 22 June – 4 July, 2017

Location: High Level, Alberta

AER 104: Celestial Navigation for Space Missions

Date: March 3 – April 6, 2017

Location: Virtual

AER 105: Spaceport Licensing and FAA Regulations

Date: April 3 – May 26, 2017

Location: Virtual

Course Curriculum

AER 101: Airborne Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds

AER 101 provides a foundation in flight research as applied to the imagery of noctilucent cloud structures synchronized with ground and satellite observations.

Each program provides an immersive educational experience covering the following topics:

  • Integration and testing of imagery systems to research aircraft
  • Planning of operational field campaigns and sortie.
  • In-flight operations to image noctilucent cloud structures
  • High-altitide flight operations to FL230 in unpressurized aircraft
  • Coordination of Satellite and Ground observations
  • Image processing and data analysis

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Mission Plan:

Sorties will be planned daily and waypoints, altitudes, and engine settings will be calculated based on AIM satellite ephemeris data, the solar position, and winds aloft. Missions will be flown when noctilucent cloud presence is verified through visual observation or through LiDAR detection.

Each mission will have: 1) pilot in command, 2) navigator, and 3) instrument technician and operator. Ground crew will consist of 1) mission flight director, 2) remote site camera operator, and 3) deputy remote site camera operator.

Missions flown synchronous with solar motion will be flown at FL180 for a duration of 90 minutes at altitude. Missions flown to intercept the AIM satellite will be flown at FL230 for a duration of 45 minutes.

Each student will have the opportunity to participate in a flight as well as a ground observation mission. Transportation to and from Edmonton, AB will be provided.

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Costs and Prerequisites:

Next Class: June 22 to July 28 OR July 27 to July 3

Location: High Level, Alberta

Cost: $3500 includes transportation and lodging (graduation from PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Program or Advanced PoSSUM Academy required)

AER 102: Suborbital Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds

Each PoSSUM Tomography Experiment sortie will employ a manned reusable suborbital vehicle from a high-latitude spaceport.  Project PoSSUM noctilucent cloud campaigns will be launched from latitudes where noctilucent clouds could be observed, since noctilucent clouds form generally at latitudes higher than 60 degrees.

Each program provides an immersive educational experience covering the following topics:

  • Suborbital Research Campaign Planning and Operations
  • Mission Readiness Training
  • Biomedical Monitoring Systems
  • Science Communication and Public Outreach
  • CITI biomedical training
  • Mission Analysis and Debrief

What to expect

Participating members should allow two weeks to train and fly.  Upon arrival, each members will receive a safety briefing and instruction on research protocol. Members may participate in egress tests and system testing.  All teams will rehearse until they reach a level of proficiency in ground conditions before their flight.  Once the mission is approved by both test director and flight director, the flight will commence.

Mission Plan:

When strong cloud formations are observed from the ground or from LiDAR, the spacecraft will be launched to an altitude that transitions the noctilucent cloud layer.  The clouds will be under direct illumination from the sun and the attitude of the spacecraft would be oriented north to the presumed region of highest cloud density. Launch opportunities could not be guaranteed on any specific night as there is no way to predict on what days the noctilucent clouds will be present.  However, historical trends indicate one good opportunity every five days.  A ‘Commit to Launch’ decision will be made when strong cloud formations are observed from local ground-based LiDAR.

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Costs and Prerequisites:

Next Mission: TBD

Location: TBD

Cost: TBD

AER 103: Suborbital Space Environment

Description

The various components of the solar-terrestrial system, and the interactions between them, are examined to provide a solid understanding of the re-entry and orbital environments within which aerospace vehicles operate, and the impacts these environments have on spacecraft crews and systems.

Outline

Survey Of The Solar-Terrestrial System (2 weeks)

Plasma Physics Overview
Solar Physics Overview
Terrestrial Atmosphere Overview

Components Of The Solar-Terrestrial System (3 weeks)

The Sun
The Solar Wind
The Geomagnetic Field
The Radiation Belts
The Magnetosphere
The Neutral Atmosphere
The Ionosphere
Noctilucent Clouds and PMSE
Sprites

Ionospheric Variability and Perturbations (1 week)

Impact On Spacecraft Systems (2 weeks)

Spacecraft Charging
Satellite Drag
Debris and Impact Phenomena
Radio Propagation and Communications
Particles and Radiative health Hazards
Radiative Hazards to Electronic Systems and Single Event Upsets
Mission planning and Safety

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Costs and Prerequisites:

Next Class: April 9, 2017

Location: Integrated Spaceflight Virtual Office

Cost: $750 (Open University)

AER 104: Celestial Navigation for Space Missions

AER 104 includes practical instruction in celestial navigation and how it pertains to suborbital and orbital imaging imaging and remote sensing missions. The course provides the skills necessary to navigate by use of a sextant and sight reduction tables. Topics include: selecting stars for navigation, use of a sextant, use of correction factors (e.g. refraction, dip, instrument error), use of sight reduction tables, and the determination of longitude and latitude using an Earth-based coordinate system.

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Costs and Prerequisites:

Next Class: 3 April to 26 May 2017

Location: Integrated Spaceflight Virtual Office

Cost: $550 (Open University)

AER 105: Spaceport Licensing and FAA Regulations

PoSSUM aeronomy research is often required where existing spaceport infrastructure is lacking. AER 105 is a practical course where students learn about FAA regulations that pertain to commercial space as well as the spaceport licensing process. Students participate in a team project relating to vehicle, mission, or spaceport certification.

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Costs and Prerequisites:

Next Class: 3 April to 26 May, 2017

Location: Virtual

Cost: No Charge for PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut and Advanced PoSSUM Academy Graduates

AER 106: Space Technologies for Aeronomy Applications

AER 106 students are provided a mentor to conceptualize, receive funding support, and fly their science or technology experiments or mature a space technology related to imagery and remote sensing. This technology may be designed to fly on aircraft, high-altitude balloon, suborbital or orbital spacecraft. PoSSUM Members have designed imagery systems, LiDAR systems, neutral and charged particle detectors, and temperature profilers for aeronomy observations, as well as space-qualified enclosures supporting PoSSUM camera systems.

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Costs and Prerequisites:

Next Class: Organized individually

Location: TBD – some travel may be required

Cost: No Charge for POSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Graduates