Solar instrument bridges gap left by Glory’s demise

TIM instrument, image courtesy of LASP

An instrument to monitor solar energy, built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, will be launched into orbit in 2013 to help determine the effects of solar radiation on Earth’s climate. This Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) will mitigate a potential and likely upcoming gap in an otherwise continuous 34-year climate data record following the loss of the NASA Glory mission in 2011.

The NOAA Total Solar Irradiance Calibration Transfer Experiment (TCTE) will fly the LASP TIM, and the TCTE will catch a ride to space on board the STPSat-3 spacecraft, built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation for the U.S. Air Force. A space-flight veteran, TIM measures the Sun’s net energy output, which scientists call total solar irradiance.

Greg Kopp, LASP scientist and TIM Principal Investigator, said, “To understand the causes of climate change, we need to monitor fluctuations in incident sunlight, which is the dominant energy driving Earth’s climate. This timely collaboration among NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Air Force, Ball, and LASP should help us maintain continuity and accuracy in this critical long-term data record by providing overlap between a currently on-orbit but aging TIM and a future version of the instrument.”

Information collected by TIM will add to the solar climate data record that has been compiled by NASA and NOAA since 1978, filling a likely gap between NASA’s 2003 Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) mission and NOAA’s 2016 Joint Polar Satellite System. LASP has refined TIM for improved accuracy since its first launch on SORCE. A follow-on TIM on NASA’s Glory mission was lost due to a launch vehicle failure in 2011. The TCTE instrument, largely built alongside the original SORCE/TIM, provides a means of quickly readying a replacement instrument for a flight on the Air Force’s existing STPSat­‑3 mission for a mid-2013 launch.

Website: http://lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/instruments/tim.htm

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