NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III-ISS (SAGE III-ISS) has been pulled out of storage and is presently undergoing verification testing in preparation for its launch in 2014. SAGE III-ISS will ascend out of Cape Canaveral atop a Falcon-9 rocket supplied by commercial vendor Space-X, a company established by Tesla Motor’s Elon Musk. SAGE III-ISS has been stored in its shipping container for the past nine years within a class 100 clean room. The container is continually purged with nitrogen to help prevent the corrosive effects air has on the spacecraft.
The SAGE III-ISS mission is to measure ozone, water vapor, and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. One example of what scientists will be studying is the slow recovery of the ozone layer since the ban of the use of chlorofluorocarbons was put in place; a ban made possible through the data collected by the SAGE II spacecraft. The SAGE mission also provides insight into the impact of human activities on the atmosphere. This information can help enable leaders to implement policies to either try and mitigate environmental impacts or make preparations for any potential future environmental changes.
Where the previous SAGE missions were secondary payloads on other satellites the SAGE III-ISS will be attached to one of three potential points on the International Space Station through the use of robots. This particular positioning will enable the SAGE III-ISS to examine the middle and lower layers of Earth’s atmosphere. This payload is the most recent in the SAGE program which began in 1979 and will allow scientists to continue to develop the long term trending and analysis of the atmosphere necessary to understanding climate change.
Currently the SAGE is undergoing initialization testing at NASA’s Langley Research Center located in Herndon, Virginia. The instruments on the spacecraft were built in Boulder, Colorado, by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Group. The base the instrument group is attached to, known as the hexapod, was built by the European Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space, which are based out of France. The hexapod allows the SAGE to point at the necessary angles required for it to perform its mission independent of the orientation of the space station with respect to Earth.
Photo credit: PRNewsFoto/NASA, Sean Smith