SDL's SABER Instrument a Success

January 11, 2002

LOGAN — Employees at Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) and NASA Langley Research Center celebrated as the SABER (Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband

SABER was launched into its 388-mile polar orbit on December 7 aboard a Delta II rocket. It then had to wait for a routine 30-day engineering checkout of the spacecraft before the cryogenic cooler could be operated. In order for SABER to function properly, all but one of the sensors have to be cooled and maintained at 75 Kelvin.

"We all stood and cheered as we saw excellent atmospheric oxygen emission from the first detector activated," said Allan Steed, Director of SDL "It is gratifying to see it on orbit working spectacularly."

SABER is the first program at the lab to use a mechanical cryocooler to cool the focal planes. This cooler allows the instrument to have a longer mission life compared to liquid-based coolers such as liquid nitrogen or hydrogen ice.

Scott Jensen, SABER Thermal Systems Engineer at SDL, said that many have been skeptical with the cryocooler because it is a mechanical device and like any mechanical device it has the possibility of failing. He said this is why so many people where cheering when the cryocooler was turned-on and began working perfectly.

"It has been a great project to work on," Jensen said. "SABER has been challenging at times, but seeing it working so beautifully makes everything worth it."

Once the cooler was working the other detectors were activated and began scanning the Mesosphere - the least explored and understood region of the Earth's atmosphere. The two-year mission will study the influences of the Sun and humans have on this area. Data collected will also be used to predict weather and global warming.

"We look forward to the significant contributions SABER is beginning to make to enable mankind to better understand globally the Earth's atmosphere and environment," said Steed

SABER took a little under a decade to complete. It was integrated on the spacecraft and ready for launch in early 2000, but had to wait for another satellite that was being launched on the same rocket. An average of 26 employees worked on the project since the contract was awarded in April of 1995.

"While there are only a handful of people actively involved the launch and monitoring of the instrument, the whole laboratory should take great pride in this achievement," Steed said. "It would not be possible without engineers, technicians, machinists, designers, management, and office and business support."

SABER is one of four instruments on NASA's TIMED (Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere-Energetics and Dynamics) program. According to NASA, it will be able to obtain an unprecedented set of global measurements: temperature, pressure, winds, chemical composition and energy inputs and outputs.