AWE Successfully Installed on Space Station, Sending Down Data

On Saturday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. EST, installation of NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) was completed on the International Space Station.

The video begins with the International Space Station soaring above Earth. As the Space Station turns, AWE, which is nestled on the bottom portion of the Space Station, comes into view.
From its unique vantage point on the International Space Station, NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) will look directly down into Earth’s atmosphere.
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

By remotely controlling the Canadarm2 robotic arm, engineers first extracted AWE from SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft a couple days after it arrived at the station on Nov. 11. Then, on Saturday, using the Canadarm2 robotic arm again, engineers completed AWE’s installation onto the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 1, a platform designed to support external payloads mounted to the International Space Station.

After sending initial commands to AWE on Monday, Nov. 20, the team has confirmed that the instrument has power. All four cameras are on and data is being received by the science team. The mission is operating as expected.

AWE will enable scientists to compute the size, energy, and momentum of atmospheric gravity waves, which can be formed by weather disturbances, such as thunderstorms or hurricanes. AWE is the first NASA mission to attempt this type of science to provide insight into how terrestrial weather impacts space weather which may affect satellite communications and tracking in orbit. AWE has joined NASA’s fleet of heliophysics missions studying the heliosphere – a vast interconnected system that includes the space surrounding Earth and other planets, out to the farthest limits of the Sun’s constantly flowing stream of solar wind.

AWE is led by Ludger Scherliess at Utah State University in Logan, and it is managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory built the AWE instrument and provides the mission operations center.

By Abbey Interrante
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 

New Principal Investigator to Lead NASA’s AWE Mission

NASA has named a new principal investigator for its newly launched Atmospheric Waves Experiment, or AWE. Effective as of Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, Ludger Scherliess, a physics professor at Utah State University, will lead the AWE science team. A native of Germany, Scherliess earned a doctoral degree in physics from Utah State University in 1997 and has been a researcher and professor at the university for about 25 years.

Nicola Fox, the Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, appointed Scherliess to succeed the retiring Michael Taylor, also of Utah State University. Taylor has studied upper atmospheric gravity waves for nearly four decades, conceived the AWE mission, and helped guide AWE through its successful launch to the International Space Station on Nov. 9.

Two people stand next to each other and smile at the camera. Each is wearing a yellow polo shirt with the letters "AWE" on their upper left chest.
Ludger Scherliess (left), the new principal investigator for NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE), stands next to Michael Taylor (right), who is retiring as the mission’s principal investigator.
Credits: Utah State University/Mary-Ann Muffoletto

Launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as part of NASA’s SpaceX CRS-29 commercial resupply mission, the AWE instrument arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 11. It is expected to be installed on the outside of the station later this month. 

Once science operations begin, AWE will take advantage of its position on the space station to continuously image airglow in Earth’s atmosphere, studying undulations in the air known as atmospheric gravity waves around the globe to help us better understand the connections between terrestrial weather and space weather.

AWE Launches to Space Station

Set against a black sky, a rocket rises above a launch pad with a bright yellow glow and trail of white smoke directly beneath it. Plumes of white smoke billow around the launch pad on the ground. In the foreground, the light from the rocket engine is reflected in dark waters.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, on the company’s 29th commercial resupply services mission for the agency to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 8:28 p.m. EST. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

At 8:28 p.m. EST on Nov. 9, 2023, NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment, or AWE, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the 29th commercial resupply mission (CRS-29) for NASA.

An uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying AWE and over 6,000 pounds of other cargo autonomously docked with the International Space Station at 5:07 a.m. EST on Nov. 11.

Once installed on the outside of the space station, AWE will spend two years studying undulations in the air known as atmospheric gravity waves to understand the flow of energy through Earth’s upper atmosphere and space, helping us better understand the connections between terrestrial weather and space weather.

At night, a large, white rocket stands straight up in the middle of the image. On either side are tall towers. The bottom of the rocket is bright, as if it's lighting up, and golden smoke starts to fill the bottom of the image.
Credits: NASA