CATS - New Remote-Sensing Instrument to Blaze a Trail on the International Space Station
Released on September 8, 2014
The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a new instrument that will measure the character and worldwide distribution of the tiny particles that make up haze, dust, air pollutants, and smoke, will do more than gather data once it's deployed on the International Space Station in December.
NASA Goddard is preparing to demonstrate for the fist time in space, a 3-wavelength, laser remote sensing instrument. The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System or CATS will measure clouds and aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere. This cost-effective, technology demonstration will be deployed on the International Space Station as early as December 2014.
Internal to the laser, special optical crystals are used to generate 3 wavelengths of light by adding the energy of two photons, to make a single new photon. The final output beam is made up of all three wavelengths and these photons are transmitted in groups, towards the atmosphere, at the speed of light. As photons encounter clouds or particles, scattering of the laser beam occurs. Very few of the photons scatter directly back to the optical telescope, but the ones that return, are collected and counted by sensitive detectors and electronics. By timing the difference between emission and detection, the precise altitude of the particles can be determined.
CATS will determine the height, thickness and the extent of smoke, dust particles, and volcanic ash in our atmosphere. Improving cloud data will allow scientist to create more accurate climate models, which in turn, will improve air quality forecast and health risk alerts.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 188.8.131.52.0