The new assignment, called the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) mission, will cost US$42 million and will see the agency obtain global observations of an “important driver of space weather in a dynamic region of Earth’s upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications”.
The mission is due to take place in 2022 and will be attached to the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA said, “AWE will focus on colorful bands of light in Earth’s atmosphere, called airglow, to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in the upper atmosphere.”
AWE is a “Mission of Opportunity” under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency’s larger missions.
“The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the universe and explore our place in it,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s director of astrophysics.
“This mission absolutely meets that standard with a creative and cost-effective mission to solve mysteries about Earth’s upper atmosphere.”
The AWE assignment will be led by Michael Taylor at Utah State University in Logan and managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
NASA said AWE was “selected for development based on its potential science value and the feasibility of its development plans”.
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