A Space-X Dragon cargo ferry set for launch to the International Space Station packed with supplies, experiments, tools and food for the six astronauts living and working high above Earth. In the unpressurised cargo hold is a new NASA sensor that will monitor our atmosphere with a helping hand from ESA.
NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment, or SAGE III, will monitor aerosols, ozone and other gases in Earth’s high atmosphere by looking at the sunlight and moonlight as they pass through. Astronauts on the Space Station often remark at how thin the atmosphere appears when seen from the side.
SAGE will improve our understanding of ozone and climate change in the upper atmosphere by looking sideways at the Sun and Moon as they skim the horizon and this where ESA’s Hexapod comes in.
Hexapod’s six legs work together to track the Sun and Moon precisely in the few seconds of their setting and rising dozens of times each day.
Hexapod will track the Sun until it disappears behind the horizon and then return to a starting position to repeat the process with the Moon, for years on end.
Once Dragon arrives at the Station, Hexapod and SAGE will be moved to the Station’s main truss and installed using its robotic arm. Hexapod’s intricate machinery will be locked for the demanding g-forces and vibrations of launch, before being released on command to do its job, eliminating the need for a spacewalk.