Research Support Instruments

Here we present past and current RSI programs.  More information about highlighted programs can be found in the programs menu on the right.  Feel free to contact RSI personnel for program status.


Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM)

Lockheed Martin (L/M) is now producing the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) for the GOES-R series of geostationary weather satellites.  NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees this development effort and relies on RSI to review L/M’s work and to perform  independent analyses.  RSI has performed trade analyses to maximize the detection of true lightning flashes while minimizing false alarms due to random noise, sun glints, radiation, and background contrast modulated by spacecraft jitter.  RSI has assisted in the optimization of the GLM’s baseline parameters, including the threshold levels and time constants in the onboard processor and the software filter architecture and algorithms in the ground processor.  RSI has also analyzed hardware and operational requirements for ground-based lasers to improve the GLM’s nighttime lightning flash geo-location.


Special Sensor Ultraviolet Limb Imager

The NRL Special Sensor Ultraviolet Limb Imager (SSULI) optical instrument is a spectrograph with the objective to measure extreme and far ultraviolet radiation (vertical profiles) from the Earth's limb. The primary observations, ranging from 80 - 170 nm (FUV/EUV), with 1.5 nm resolution, are of radiation from atomic oxygen and nitrogen, and molecular nitrogen, resulting in direct measurements of the electron density vertical profile as well as ion and neutral densities. The vertical profiles in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere are obtained by viewing the Earth's limb at a tangent altitude of approximately 50 km to 750 km. Data products from the SSULI were officially transitioned for use in operational systems at the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) on June 9, 2011.
RSI designed and built the SSULI UV limb imaging spectrometer under contract to NRL.  Additional RSI SSULI work was in the areas of systems science, radiation analysis and testing, contamination analysis, and providing liaison between the program scientists and the design and fabrication efforts.  RSI was also responsible for the SSULI pre-flight SIC mirror lifetime testing.


Low-Earth-Orbit Atmospheric Compensation Experiment

The Low-Earth-Orbit Atmospheric Compensation Experiment (LACE) satellite carried four experiments: 1) Sensor field for ground based adaptive optics evaluation in the infrared, visible and pulsed wavelengths (for the Strategic Defense Initiatives Office); 2) Ultra-Violet Plume Imaging (UVPI) tracking experiment (also for SDIO); 3) Optical Radiation Detection experiment (for Aerospace Corporation); 4) Background neutron environment measurements for decoy detection experiment (for the US Army).  LACE was integrated with a USAF relay-mirror experiment payload and mounted atop a Delta II rocket for a successful launch in February 1990 from Cape Canaveral.
RSI performed all calibrations of the LACE sensor array subsystem comprising three separate arrays covering a 4m by 4m surface and consisting of visible: 85 Si photodiodes; pulsed:  85 Si photodiodes; IR:  40 pairs of HgCdTe photoresistive sensors.  All 210 sensors were calibrated to 10% radiometric accuracy over five orders of magnitude as functions of wavelength, incidence angle, polarization, and sensor temperature.  RSI also provided field support for LACE observations.



The Deep Space Program Science Experiment (DSPSE) mission, more widely known as Clementine, was designed to test lightweight miniature sensors and advanced spacecraft components by exposing them, over a long period of time, to the difficult environment of outer space.  In addition to testing the various sensors, Clementine was given the complex task of completely mapping the moon in multiple spectral bands. Clementine launched on a Titan IIG expendable launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in January 1994.
RSI had many roles in the Clementine program including scientific mission feasibility analysis, surveying and recommending available hardware for the science payload, interface with NASA Science Team, interface with LLNL sensor providers, characterization and calibration of the star camera system, payload cameras, and laser ranger, integration and test of the science payload onto the spacecraft, launch site support, ground station support including post-launch sensor checkout and operations, and post-launch data analysis.


Revolutionary Imaging Technology 

The Revolutionary Imaging Technology (RIT) program was created to transition ground-based sparse-aperture optical imaging systems used for astronomy to space-based sparse-aperture imaging systems used for reconnaissance.  The program envisioned a step-by-step demonstration process involving laboratory tests, ground-based experiments, low-altitude airship experiments, high-altitude balloon experiments, leading to a LEO demonstration satellite and potential for ultimate GEO implementation.
RSI roles on RIT included designing, developing, and operating the RIT sparse-aperture testbed, designing, building, and operating the RIT 16-color camera, conducting rooftop demonstration observations of National Airport, fielding RIT optical demonstration hardware on airship flights, configuring the RIT optics for the Harbor Mist balloon flight, providing field support for all RIT airborne experiments and demonstrations, and supporting the development of a LEO demonstrator concept design.


Freespace Optical and Infrared Communications

The Freespace Optical and Infrared Communications activity is a multiple task contract in the area of freespace communications originally between RSI and NRL Remote Sensing Division, code 7200, and currently managed out of NRL Communications Branch, Code 5550. The activity has also supported related activities for NCST, Code 8000.  The contract has provided on-site and off-site support for research in free space laser communications and asymmetric laser communications,  developing and operating a satellite laser ranging station at the NRL MRC facility, support for research in high-range-resolution radar signatures and dielectric signatures, and support for the code 8000 SSE activity.  


RSI’s efforts in free space communications have included measuring performance characteristics of diode lasers that were candidates for space-to-space laser communications links and exploring applications and limitations of laser-based free space communication.  This has included development of transmit and receive components for ground-to-ground, ground-to-aircraft, over-water, and space to space lasercomm links; development of field-test and laboratory-test facilities; measurement of bit error rates; measurement of beam spatial distributions; and even development of deployed ship-to-ship video-rate data links.  RSI personnel were responsible for and directly involved in establishment of infrared freespace laser communication field test facilities at the NRL Chesapeake Bay Detachment.   A round-trip laser communication link was established over 10 miles of the Chesapeake to Tilghman Island. The program explored all aspects of laser communication including atmospheric affects, technology improvements, signal processing, and the frequency of bit-errors.  


Additional RSI support work has been in the area of development, test, and fielding of modulated retro-reflector systems.  This approach allows for modulation of a high-power CW laser beam by a low-power actively controlled retro-reflector.  The methodology leaves the high-power, high weight interrogation laser on the ground, while the low-power modulator sits on the moving platform.


NRL Plasma Physics

The Plasma Physics Division conducts a broad experimental and theoretical program in basic and applied research in plasma physics, laboratory discharge and space plasmas, intense electron and ion beams and photon sources, atomic physics, pulsed power sources, laser physics, advanced spectral diagnostics, and nonlinear systems.

RSI is under contract to the NRL Plasma Physics Division to provide on-site support to the high energy laser programs including Nike, Electra, and T-cubed.  RSI staff participated in the design and construction of these lasers, their maintenance, and in laser material interaction experiments.  RSI also supports the division’s laser applications experiments, field tests, and diagnostic development efforts. Recent efforts have included participation in the development of a swept Raman spectrometer system for chemical/biological hazard detection, the development of an ultra-fast non-imaging spectrometer for monitoring impact phenomena, and field testing of laser-induced ultrasound diagnostic equipment.  

NRL NIKE Laser Facility
Other recent RSI work with the NRL Plasma Physics Division has explored the propagation of continuous-wave high power laser beams through the atmosphere.   RSI personnel supported several field tests, and developed methods to actively sense beam power, position and size.  A current interest of the group is to investigate whether Yb-Fiber lasers can be used to remotely power UAVs through power beaming.  Like laser communication, the group is studying the effects of atmospheric turbulence and scattering from aerosols.


Joint Milli-Arcsecond Pathfinder Survey

The Joint Milli-Arcsecond Pathfinder Survey (JMAPS) is an astrometric satellite program developed to measure star positions for the next generation star catalog and to serve as a technology demonstrator for future star-tracker-camera technologies.  The satellite was conceived by the USNO to provide stellar positions to better than one milliarcsecond accuracy for all stars of brightness 12th magnitude and brighter.  The NRL was chosen as the executing agency for integration and launch of the satellite.
RSI worked with USNO during the concept development stage providing systems engineering support in establishing satellite performance requirements.  Once the NRL was selected as the executing agent, RSI provided the Systems Scientist and a contamination engineer.  RSI also provided program management support to the JMAPS Program Office.


Adaptive Infrared Airborne Imaging Spectrometer

The Adaptive Infrared Airborne Imaging Spectrometer (AIRIS) is an adaptive hyperspectral imager designed to support passive standoff detection of chemical and biological hazards.  The instrument uses an adaptive Fabry-Perot spectrometer to dynamically change the operating wavelength so as to scan through a desired set of wavelengths and form the hyperspectral data cube.  The instrument has been used extensively at Dugway proiving ground and is now used as a standard at that facility.
RSI provides optical design, procurement, and assembly of the infrared optics.  RSI also provides test development, testing support and field test support.

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