Solar instrument launches to fill gap left by Glory’s demise

An updated LASP-built TIM instrument launched November 19. (Courtesy NASA)

An updated LASP-built TIM instrument launched November 19. (Courtesy NASA)

On November 19, an instrument to monitor solar energy, built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) launched into orbit around Earth to help determine the effects of solar radiation on Earth’s climate. This Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) will mitigate a  gap in an otherwise continuous 35-year climate data record following the loss of the NASA Glory mission in 2011. A space-flight veteran, TIM measures the Sun’s net energy output, which scientists call total solar irradiance.

The NOAA Total Solar Irradiance Calibration Transfer Experiment (TCTE) flies the LASP TIM instrument aboard the STPSat-3 spacecraft, built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation for the U.S. Air Force.

Greg Kopp, LASP scientist and TIM Principal Investigator, said, “Fluctuations in incident sunlight—the major force powering Earth’s climate—give us more information about the causes of climate change.”

Information collected by TIM will add to the solar climate data record that has been compiled by NASA and NOAA since 1978, filling a likely gap between NASA’s 2003 Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) mission and NOAA’s 2016 Joint Polar Satellite System. LASP has refined TIM for improved accuracy since its first launch on SORCE. A follow-on TIM on NASA’s Glory mission was lost due to a launch vehicle failure in 2011. The TCTE instrument was largely built alongside the original SORCE/TIM then updated for spaceflight, quickly readying it to prevent the likely measurement gap left by the Glory failure.

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