SDL celebrates 6th anniversary of SABER launch

By Karen Wolfe
Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory
December 7, 2007

North Logan—Six years after successful launch, the Space Dynamics Laboratory’s SABER, or Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry, instrument continues to gather data that is helping scientists understand global temperature profiles and sources of atmospheric cooling.

Launched on Dec. 7, 2001, SDL’s SABER is one of four instruments on board NASA’s TIMED mission, which stands for Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics. NASA is using TIMED to study the impacts that the Sun and humans have on the least understood region of Earth’s atmosphere – the Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere/Ionosphere, or MLTI.

Initially planned as a two-year mission, the successes of TIMED and the instruments on board, including SABER, have led NASA to extend the mission twice since its launch. Currently, NASA plans to continue TIMED operations and data analysis from SABER and the other three instruments through 2010, 7 years longer than the original mission’s goals.

The longevity of the TIMED mission and the continued success of its instruments has allowed scientists to combine data from that of more recently launched science instruments giving us a more complete picture of the MLTI.

“The SABER instrument in-orbit performance is outstanding,” said Hampton University’s Dr. James Russell, principal investigator of the SABER instrument. “Everything is working as well, or in some cases better, than when we launched it.”

SDL and Utah State have a long history of working with Russell. SDL designed, built, tested and calibrated the SABER instrument under Russell’s guidance.

“The science done with SABER so far is exceptional. We now have new knowledge of the detailed dynamics of the MLTI region and we have learned that nitric oxide acts as a natural thermostat to regulate the temperature in the MLTI,” said Russell of SDL’s efforts.

Russell’s team at Hampton is also evaluating data retrieved from another science instrument built by SDL that was launched in April of this year, the Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment, or SOFIE.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center manages the TIMED mission. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., leads the project's science effort and manages the mission's Science Data Center.