AFRL, NASA Partner to Deploy Sensor Tech for Space Weather Observation

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The Air Force Research Laboratory has partnered with NASA to launch a sensor experiment in space to study how space weather in the ionosphere affects communication navigation and communication systems.

The Gridded Retarding Ion Drift Sensor, developed by the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate, was released from the International Space Station aboard NASA’s Plasma Enhancements in the Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite in late December, Air Force Materiel Command said Wednesday.

GRIDS is expected to be in orbit for six months to help examine how density changes in the ionosphere impact the performance of space-based communication and navigation systems.

“The GRIDS sensor is designed to measure how much plasma is present in the atmosphere and in what direction it is moving. This should allow us to detect the presence of plasma bubbles and globs and give us information into how they are formed,” said Ryan Davidson, AFRL senior research physicist and program manager for the experiment.

According to NASA, the six-unit small satellite petitSat arrived at the orbital space station on Nov. 27, 2022, as part of SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission.

AFRL will continue to collaborate with NASA for GRIDS’ second deployment in 2024.

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