LOGAN, Utah -- Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued it a patent for a new invention by SDL research scientist Erik Syrstad.
Syrstad's invention, known as the Imaging Dispersive Energy Analyzer (IDEA), will allow next-generation measurements of the space environment from orbiting satellites.
"IDEA will sample gas and plasma particles in a region of space lying closest to Earth's atmosphere that is not well understood," Syrstad said. "The sensor is designed to efficiently separate and detect these particles, simultaneously measuring parameters such as wind, temperature, density, and composition." This data will help scientists better understand and predict the impact of space weather – upper atmospheric variability driven by energy from the Sun.
Using an imaging ion detector, IDEA produces continuous snapshots of the incoming atmosphere, from which small changes in wind, temperature, and density can be observed. Compared to traditional space weather sensors, IDEA detects a much higher fraction of the sampled atmosphere. This results in higher signal and improved measurement accuracy, and allows this instrument to operate at much higher altitudes where the atmosphere is extremely thin.
Ultimately, data collected by IDEA will help improve complex atmospheric models that are used to predict the impact of space weather events. These events often result in degraded GPS and radio signals, spacecraft damage, and increased atmospheric drag that can alter a satellite's orbit.
"Innovation has been a trademark of our organization for over 50 years, and we are refocusing our efforts in this area as a strategic emphasis at the Space Dynamics Lab," said Niel Holt, director of SDL director said. "Erik and others at SDL continue to look for ways to invent and improve devices, systems and methods so that we remain competitive and relevant in the aerospace, science and defense industries."
SDL is one of 14 University Affiliated Research Centers in the nation. Charged with applying basic research to the technology challenges presented in the military and science arenas, SDL has developed revolutionary solutions that are changing the way the world collects and uses data. SDL's core competencies are electro-optical sensor systems, calibration, thermal management, reconnaissance systems, and small satellite technologies. Headquartered in Logan, Utah, SDL has operations in Albuquerque, N.M.; Bedford, Mass.; Washington; Los Angeles; Huntsville, Ala.; Colorado Springs, Colo. and Houston.