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Space Dynamics Laboratory Prepares Innovative Light Imaging Instrument For Launch Into Space

April 27, 2020 | Utah Public Radio

Utah’s Space Dynamics Laboratory recently delivered a test version of a satellite sub-unit to NASA that will measure the movements of microscopic creatures within Earth’s oceans from space. The Space Dynamics Laboratory is an affiliate lab to Utah State University and is working on a sub-unit of the PACE spacecraft, which NASA will launch into space in 2022. PACE stands for Plankton Aerosol Cloud Ocean Ecosystem.

Listen to the interview (2.28 MB MP3)

Artist's rendition of the PACE spacecraft
NASA

“The PACE mission itself is going to provide a combination of global atmospheric and oceanic observations that can benefit our human society in areas of water resources, disaster impacts, ecological forcasting, air quality, human health. It’s a pretty broad-range application to benefit both environmentally as well as economically," said Gabe Loftus, the rogram manager in the civil space division at the Space Dynamics Laboratory.

NORTH LOGAN, Utah, April 20, 2020 –Space Dynamics Laboratory engineers prepare the engineering test unit of the Short-Wave Infrared Detection Assembly for NASA’s PACE spacecraft for shipping in North Logan, UT, in this February 20, 2020 photo.
ALLISON BILLS, SPACE DYNAMICS LABORATORY

The scientists and engineers at the Space Dynamics Lab in North Logan are responsible for a sub-unit of the unmanned spacecraft that will take images of the ocean, to track the growth and movement of plankton.

“The short-wave Infrared Detection Assembly, or SDA for short, which is primarily a lense telescope-based instrument," Loftus said. "This will provide an unprecedented level of visualization. For example, if you think about having poor eye-sight, and having to squint or just sort of seeing a fuzzy outline of an image, this will be like giving someone glasses and then a pair of high-powered binoculars. We’ll be able to see at a very high level of fidelity, detailed movements of life, at a microscopic level.”

NORTH LOGAN, Utah, April 20, 2020 –Space Dynamics Laboratory engineers prepare the engineering test unit of the Short-Wave Infrared Detection Assembly for NASA’s PACE spacecraft for shipping in North Logan, UT.
ALLISON BILLS, SPACE DYNAMICS LABORATORY

Loftus said that NASA’s missions often focus on earth science-- earth science conducted from space.

“It’s a multi-faceted organization that’s exploring the stars and galaxies beyond ours, but also using all of those skills and it’s unique vantage tolook back down at the earth and find ways to every aspect of our lives," Loftus said.