A research project proposed by Broward College science faculty, was selected for a mission aboard Blue Origins New Shepherd sRLV (suborbital reusable launch vehicle). The “Measurement of the Atmospheric Background in the Mesosphere as a Pre-cursor to Astronomical Observations,” launched in the first half of 2018 and marks the 20th anniversary of the first Broward College project to launch in space.
“For the past twenty years, Broward College has had a strong relationship with the space community, working in tandem to understand the cosmos while inspiring the next generation of astronomy enthusiasts,” said Broward College President J. David Armstrong, Jr. “We have had students who have become engineers with NASA and physicians with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute because we could give them these once-in-a-lifetime experiences to engage with technology, engineering, and science.”
“Measurement of the Atmospheric Background in the Mesosphere as a Pre-cursor to Astronomical Observations,” will study the abundance of hydroxide in the mesosphere, the middle layer of earth’s atmosphere. Hydroxide absorbs heavily in the mesosphere and its effects on the planet and the atmosphere are not yet fully understood. The payload will hover in the mesosphere to measure trace gas amounts by layer. The project will be in space for 15 minutes on an hour-long mission.
Each year, NASA distributes a request for project proposals which can accompany launches. Projects are competitively reviewed for scientific relevance. For the Blue Origins New Shepherd sRLV launch Broward College partnered with Silicon Valley Space Center, an aerospace industry business incubator, led by Dr. Sean Casey.
In 2016, NASA selected Blue Origin, LLC to integrate and fly technology payloads near the boundary of space in support of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. According to a press release distributed by NASA, “the Flight Opportunities Program, STMD selects promising technologies from industry, academia and government, and tests them on commercial launch vehicles. The Flight Opportunities Program is funded by STMD, and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. STMD is responsible for developing the crosscutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.” The 2018 launch of Blue Origins New Shepherd sRLV will be one of the first space commercialization missions with a vertical take-off.
“My students and I are excited to continue our collaboration with NASA through Blue Origins,” said Rolando Branly, Broward College physics professor and faculty sponsor of the project. “Broward College is one of only two higher education institutions in the Florida Space Grant Consortium with full membership, and we plan to submit many more projects to learn what we can about ‘the final frontier’.”
The first Broward College space project was launched in 1998. Since then, the College has participated in 19 launch missions with projects studying a wide range of subjects involving microgravity, atmospheric make up, and more. Two projects have gone into space, in 1998 and 2000, five have been on zero gravity flight missions, and two were included on the last two NASA space missions on shuttle Discovery. — Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce