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NASA’s PACE satellite is in space!

On February 8, 2024, A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite for NASA from Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex at 1:33 a.m. EST.

Over the last 5 years, Physics professor J. Vanderlei Martins' research group in the Earth and Space Institute developed the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter 2 (HARP2). HARP2 is one of the three main instruments on the PACE satellite.

PACE represents the next step on the measurement of aerosols, clouds and ocean ecology from space. The unique combination of instruments on PACE (OCI, HARP2, and SPEXOne) provides an unprecedented capability to characterize aerosol microphysics, clouds, and surface properties (over ocean and land). PACE has a combination of hyperspectral and hype-angular polarization measurements never before flown in space. This opens up a new generation of passive instruments for the global monitoring of our planet.

UMBC’s HARP2 instrument is a specialized wide field-of-view camera that is sensitive to polarized light and will image the entire Earth every two days. HARP2 expands on the preliminary steps of HARP CubeSat (a previous technology demonstration) providing the global monitoring of aerosols, clouds and surface properties from space. HARP2 will characterize the amount and type of particulate matter (pollution) resulting from forest fires, dust, volcanic emissions, urban emissions, etc., and the size of the droplets on liquid clouds, as well as the identification between liquid water and ice.

The development of HARP2 involved UMBC, GESTAR, JCET, and NASA faculty, as well as many external collaborators and contractors. ATPH graduate students Noah Sienkiewicz and Rachel Smith have contributed significantly to the HARP2 development and testing as well, and their PhD work will uniquely combine engineering and science aspects of HARP2 and its data.

Congratulations to all, including our Physics faculty, staff, and students who were involved with this mission!

Learn more about PACE!

View the launch here on YouTube: "SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NASA's PACE-Payload."

See the PACE spacecraft mission on the PACE mission blog.

Please see the UMBC news release for more details.

PACE images credit: NASA

Posted: February 9, 2024, 11:48 AM