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.
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.
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.
NASA will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 26, to discuss the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) and other International Space Station payloads launching in November. AWE’s mission is to help us better understand the interactions between weather on Earth and in space.
AWE is one of many research and technology experiments bound for the space station next month aboard the agency’s SpaceX 29th commercial resupply services mission. The telecon will also discuss a laser communications system launching to the space station alongside AWE.
Launch is targeted for no earlier than 10:01 p.m. EST on Sunday, Nov. 5. The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, carried on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
To ask questions during the teleconference, media must RSVP no later than two hours before the event to Claire O’Shea at claire.a.o’firstname.lastname@example.org. NASA’s media accreditation policy is available online. The public can submit questions on social media using #AskNASA.
NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) has successfully completed critical space environment tests. Planned for launch to the International Space Station in November 2023, AWE will study atmospheric gravity waves in Earth’s atmosphere to help us better understand the connections between terrestrial weather and space.
“AWE is a highly sensitive, precise science instrument designed to be fitted on the International Space Station and operate in the harsh space environment,” said Burt Lamborn, AWE project manager at Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL), which is building the instrument for NASA. “To ensure that AWE will survive launch turbulence and operate as designed once in space, SDL put the instrument through its paces on the ground.”
AWE’s environmental tests included:
Electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility (EMI/EMC) testing to ensure AWE does not produce or emit electromagnetic signals that could interfere with other critical equipment on the International Space Station.
Exposing AWE to a variety of high-level noise sources to ensure that any interference originating from the space station will not impair AWE’s observations.
Tests to verify ruggedness and reliability, electrostatic discharge, and voltage spikes.
Vibration and strength validation testing using a shaker table that simulated the predicted conditions during launch.
Thermal vacuum testing to demonstrate the performance and operation of the AWE instrument in a simulated flight environment.
Instrument calibration in a vacuum chamber, which simulated on-orbit environmental conditions.
Satellite communications that enable banking, navigation, telephony, entertainment, and many more applications can be disrupted by impacts from atmospheric gravity waves and from adverse space weather. Scientists hope to gain new knowledge from AWE that will help them more accurately forecast the impact on communications from atmospheric waves and space weather while allowing mission planners and satellite operators to plan contingencies.