Course Summary: This course will introduce the student to the intimate mix of science and engineering needed to produce experimental measurements in space. The students will propose a measurement, justified by the scientific need, and develop an experiment plan to generate the needed data from a space instrument. For the purposes of this course, we will be limited to one instrument, applicable to regions of the near earth which would be accessible to suborbital vehicles (balloons, rockets, aircraft). After measurement and commensurate instrument selection the students will design the experiment to obtain the needed data. The course will teach the students about aspects of instrument design and fabrication which are common to most suborbital instruments. Each student will be responsible for a report on the science justification for the measurement. Specific engineering skills the student can expect to learn include simple circuits such as amplifiers, filters, analog to digital conversion, interface electronics and electromagnetic interference testing. The student will learn how to design and fabricate a printed circuit board, as well as fabrication and testing of a major component of the target instrument. The final report for the quarter will be a write up of the instrument design, along with a fabricated and tested subcomponent of that instrument. It is expected that the students will continue the following quarter to finish the instrument fabrication, calibration, testing, and launch, followed by data analysis and report on the findings.
Examples of appropriate projects: Waves in the atmosphere: Students could study the long and short period neutral gravity waves and turbulence in the stratosphere by measuring the atmospheric temperature and pressure with appropriate temporal resolution, from a constant altitude balloon.
VLF radio propagation in the lower ionosphere: Students could measure the Very Low Frequency electric field in the 80 to 100 km region to investigate electromagnetic energy input to the region and refraction and attenuation of VLF waves passing through the region. The students might want to focus on strong sources such as VLF radio stations or on lightning sferics.
Electric field profile between ground and ionosphere: Students may wish to investigate the electrical coupling between low and high altitude using measurements of the vertical electric field and conductivity. Any portion of the vertical profile would help scientists with present outstanding problems. Such instruments could be designed for either sounding balloons or small rocket payloads.
Many other space-based science questions could be addressed, including questions involving imaging at visible or other wavelengths, or involving energetic particles or photons believed to be caused by various natural sources, etc. The students will be encouraged to think broadly about sensors, vehicles and space science phenomena.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
classroom lecture and lab work
ESS205 or permission of instructor
Class assignments and grading
science justification report, and quality and completeness of final hardware design and fabrication