PoSSUM Instrumentation

Instrumentation for baseline PoSSUM sorties include the operator-tended PoSSUMCam imager system, the Mesospheric Aerosol Sampling Spectrometer (MASS), and the Mesosphere Clear Air Turbulence (MCAT) system.  The PoSSUMLidar system and PoSSUM Atmospheric Sampler are currently in development and will be employed on flights specifically tasked to their use. PoSSUM Instrumentation is designed to operate on the following vehicles:


  • Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two
  • Blue Origin New Shepard
  • XCOR Lynx Mark II

PoSSUMCam: Light-weight, robust, and flight proven

The PoSSUMCam System is an operator-controlled multi-instrument interface that controls an HD video camera system, the WFI wide-image camera, a 1200nm infrared camera, the MASS and MCAT instruments, and an atmospheric sampler.  The video camera system will investigate noctilucent cloud small-scale structures, the still-frame camera will capture the cloud structure as a whole, and the infrared camera will investigate the correlation of structures in the OH layer that reside above noctilucent cloud layers. A patented and simplified operator interface allows complete operation of all cameras considering the limited dexterity available to an operator in a spacesuit.


PoSSUMCam can support a variety of visible and infrared cameras, including those listed below, and serves as a simplified interface so that the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut can control all critical aspects of science data acquisition during a suborbital flight.


Cameras integral to the PoSSUMCam System


High-Resolution Video System:

RED Epic video camera


Wide Angle Imager:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera with Sigma 30mm lens


Infrared Imager:

Intensified Generation 3 video camera


Infrared Video:

Peltier-cooled InGaAs infrared camera

PoSSUM Atmospheric Sampling Instruments

Mesospheric Atmospheric Sampling Spectrometer (MASS)

The MASS instrument is a neutral and charged particle detector used to measure particle densities in the mesosphere.

The MASS payload mounts to the spacecraft in an external pod.  An electrostatic mass analyzer, MASS performs a mass-analysis to determine the concentration of both positively and negatively charged aerosol particles in the atmosphere.  This informs us of the nature of both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial (e.g. meteorite) particulates, which is essential in understanding how noctilucent clouds nucleate. Specifically, MASS will determine:

•Role in atmospheric chemistry (solid surface)
•Size distribution, chemical composition
•Charge state
•Vertical density profile
•Seasonal variations, response to atmospheric dynamics

Mesospheric Clear Air Turbulence (MCAT)

The MCAT instrument is used to measure density variations in the atmosphere, from which temperature profiles may be calculated.

The MCAT system is an extremely sensitive pressure gauge coupled with an accelerometer to be mounted in an external pod of the spacecraft. The MCAT vacuum pressure gauge extends into the airflow to measure atmospheric densities from the ground to an altitude of 120 km, from which atmospheric temperatures may be calculated with a resolution of less than 100 meters. Combined with the vacuum pressure gauge is the MCAT micro-g accelerometer system, which measures the atmospheric drag on the vehicle, from which atmospheric densities of comparable resolution may also be calculated. By calculating the atmospheric density through two independent methods, greater precision and confidence are achieved.

PoSSUM Payloads in Development

PoSSUMLiDAR: Particle Shapes and Sizes

The PoSSUMLiDAR system is an integral part of PoSSUMCam.  Coupled with a still-frame camera, PoSSUMLiDAR system mounts in front of the operator to study aerosol particle shapes.  From this information, thermodynamical models of noctilucent clouds may be matured.

PoSSUM Atmospheric Sampler

The PoSSUM Sampler interfaces with PoSSUMCam and will capture samples of the atmosphere as the vehicle passes through the altitudes where noctilucent clouds will be present. This will allow us to make in-situ measurements of the concentrations of CO2 and other trace gasses.

PoSSUM Educational Payloads

Are you a Science Educator?

Your students can fly their experiments on Project PoSSUM flights!

Project PoSSUM will send a representative to you and teach you how your students can develop a payload to fly in space on a dedicated Project PoSSUM science campaign. Your students will learn about science, engineering, and payload development while being part of a real atmospheric science campaign!  We can fly 1U, 2U and 3U payloads internal to the spacecraft, or we can fly a 2U-sized experiment external to the spacecraft.
  • 1U modules are 10cm x 10cm x 10cm and cost $5000, including flight and instruction
  • 2U modules are 20cm x 10cm x 10cm and cost $7500, including flight and instruction
  • 3U modules are 30cm x 10cm x 10cm and cost $9000, including flight and instruction


For more information, or to speak with a Project PoSSUM representative, please write us at info@projectpossum.org