AWE (Atmospheric Waves Experiment), is an atmospheric instrument to analyze gravity waves in a region of the upper atmosphere that can cause disruptions in radio and satellite communications as well as GPS to be placed on the ISS as a Mission of Opportunity under NASA's Explorer program.
From its location on the ISS, AWE will focus on colorful emissive layers in Earth's atmosphere, called airglow, to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in the upper atmosphere. This region was once thought to be affected only by the sun's ultraviolet light and particles, but more recent analyses have shown that gravity waves generated by weather patterns on Earth are also having an impact.
The lead organization for the project is Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory.
Once launched, the AWE equipment will allow for the creation of a global map of gravity wave characteristics and how those waves correspond to ground-based sources like tropical storms and convection. These observations dovetail with other NASA missions such as the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, which launched in January 2018, and the ICON Ionospheric Explorer — both of which seek to unravel different aspects of how terrestrial weather and space weather interact.
The experiment is expected to launch in late 2022 and will be in operation mounted to the outside of the ISS on ELC 1 for two years. NASA is providing $42 million for the project.
|Type / Application:||Research, atmosphere|
|Operator:||Space Dynamics Laboratory|
|Contractors:||Space Dynamics Laboratory|
|Configuration:||Payload mounted on ISS|
|Orbit:||400 km × 400 km, 51.6° (typical)|
Further ISS missions: ISS complex