Atmospheric monitoring of blue jets, sprites and elves

TLEs (sprites, blue jets and elves)
TLEs (sprites, blue jets and elves)
15 December 2004

The Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) has recently completed a study for the Directorate of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration showing the feasibility of accommodating the Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) payload on the International Space Station (ISS) Columbus External Platform Facility (CEPF).

The ASIM payload has been proposed by the Danish Space Research Institute (DSRI) to observe Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) that occur in the Earth's upper atmosphere accompanied by thunderstorms in the lower atmosphere. These events are known as blue jets, sprites and elves and they were first observed just a few years ago. The ISS provides a perfect platform from which to enhance our knowledge of them.

The CDF assessed the viability of conducting science observations and conducted technical analyses to specify a design concept compatible with the ISS interfaces and constraints. The contamination and radiation environment and the instrument viewing requirements were analysed and taken into account.

The ASIM instruments will be accommodated on a Columbus External Payload Adapter (CEPA) providing an interface to the Columbus power and data management. The CDF engineers designed equipment for power distribution, data handling and computing based on standard hardware available to ESA external payload.

ASIM equipment on CEPA

Structures and thermal radiators and finishes were designed by the CDF to meet the ASIM field of view and temperature limits within the constraints imposed by the ISS environment.

The CEPA also provides the interface to the carrier accommodated in the Shuttle cargo bay needed to transport the ASIM payload from ground to the ISS and return following science operations. The CDF specialists assessed the Shuttle accommodation, environment and interfaces based on Integrated Cargo Carrier Light (ICC-L) transport.

ASIM accommodation within the Shuttle dynamic envelope and Shuttle and carrier environmental and interfaces analysis showed the viability of the mechanical design. The CDF finally assessed the programme and costs to develop, launch and operate the ASIM payload for towards the end of this decade.

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