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The NSF EPSCoR RII award (2007-2011) partially supported the acquisition and installation of a thermal-vacuum chamber in the Space Science Center at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. The thermal-vacuum chamber simulates space conditions for the testing of instruments developed for small space satellites.
This new facility has enabled UNH to lead an international team of seven institutions in the “FIELDS” instrument suite for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission. MMS will use the Earth’s magnetosphere to study the physics of magnetic reconnection, a process in which magnetic fields release enormous amounts of energy. Each MMS spacecraft will have four probes which terminate with a sensor designed to measure electrical potential. UNH scientists, engineers and students are building two Electron Drift Instruments for each of the four MMS spacecraft, as well as the central electronic controls for all the instruments. The test of the MMS Central Electronic Boxes has been completed. The thermal-vacuum chamber also has been used for the first test of isolators developed by the Johns Hopkins University Advanced Physics Laboratory for the NASA JUNO project.
|The thermal vacuum chamber installed in the test room at the Institute.||Inside the chamber.||First MMS article in t/v testing.|
Lynch Rocket Lab
At the Lynch Rocket Lab at Dartmouth College, a UV gun was installed within a large vacuum chamber. This modification allows researchers to reproduce the interaction of high-energy particles within naturally occurring plasma in space. Undergraduate student Umair Siddiqui, a Presidential Scholar, designed, built, tested, and calibrated the gun as the subject of his senior thesis. A positioning table was developed to work with the UV gun. Both are now in use for thermal plasma sheath experimentation in a new NASA-funded project with UNH, Cornell University, the Southwest Research Institute, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
Launching a Rocket into the Northern Lights
The 46-foot NASA rocket launched into the Aurora Borealis carried instruments developed by a 60-member team of scientists and engineers, including Marc Lessard of the University of New Hampshire and Kristina Lynch of Dartmouth College, who attended the launch at the Poker Flat Research Range in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 18, 2012. Several of the instruments carried on the rocket were developed at UNH and Dartmouth by engineers, scientists and students. NH EPSCoR, with funding from the National Science Foundation, established testing facilities at the UNH Space Science Center and the Lynch Rocket Lab at Dartmouth to test instruments used in this NASA mission and others.
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