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USU Space Dynamics Lab wins major NASA mission

January 10, 2021 | Fox 13

LOGAN, Utah — The Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University has been awarded a contract from NASA.

The SDL is tasked with investigating how large weather events on earth, like hurricanes or thunderstorms, create disturbances above the planet’s atmosphere.

“It takes a lot of effort to compete at that level and be awarded an entire mission like this,” said Burt Lamborn, the project manager. “It is a Logan, Utah centric mission that will revolutionize how scientists understand how earth weather affects that layer of space weather.”

The study will look at gravity waves caused by inclement weather and their impact on the ionosphere.

“Some of them penetrate up into that region and stir things up,” Lamborn said.

When things get stirred up in the ionosphere, communications from satellites are impacted.

One example includes a television signal received from a satellite pixelating during a storm.

“It affects how well you map your canoe trip down the river with your GPS or how good your ‘I Love Lucy’ reruns come through,” Lamborn said.

The results of this research will aim to prevent those disruptions in the future.

“Everything from sensitive military communication satellites, GPS units, communication satellites -- all of that should be improved,” Lamborn said.

The team of roughly 50 Utahns are designing a device that includes four telescopes enclosed in a cylinder.

The final product is scheduled to be ready by September 2021.

Then, it will be delivered to NASA and eventually placed on a rocket which will take it to its destination on the International Space Station.

Data will be sent back to the lab at USU in real time and shared with researchers around the world.

This is the first time the SDL is managing a mission for NASA at a prime level.