CU-Boulder Awarded $42 Million by NASA for Design and Construction of Instrument to Measure Solar Radiation, Climate Change

Published: July 10, 2009

NASA has awarded the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics a $42 million contract for the development of a sophisticated instrument that will orbit Earth to monitor changes in the sun's radiation and help evaluate climate change.

Called the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor, or TSIS, the CU-Boulder instrument will fly on the future National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, known as NPOESS. LASP will be responsible for the design, construction and testing of TSIS, said LASP Associate Professor Peter Pilewskie, principal investigator on the project.

The sensor will continue key climate measurements of solar radiation that contribute to determining the Earth's energy balance and understanding how Earth's climate responds to solar variability, said Pilewskie. "We are very excited about this award," said Pilewskie, who said the research is crucial for understanding Earth's present climate and for predicting future climate change.

"In order to quantify the anthropogenic influences on climate, we need accurate measurements of the natural climate-forcing agents, the most important of which is the sun," said Pilewskie. "This project will allow the University of Colorado to continue the three-decade-long monitoring of solar radiation from space."

NASA is developing the TSIS Flight Model 1 under an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NPOESS is a joint program to develop the next generation of polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites that form the basis for weather forecasting and is co-funded by NOAA and the Department of Defense, with NASA as a technology provider. The NPOESS program is managed by the interagency Integrated Program Office.

NOAA will fund the instrument and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will manage the acquisition of the instrument for NOAA.