School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

AtmoSHINE - A Spatial Heterodyne Interferometer for global temperature measurement of the upper atmosphere

Mission Objectives

The University of Wuppertal and the Research Centre Juelich, together with the Max-Planck-Institute for the physics of light in Erlangen, developed a small satellite for climate research, based on a Spatial Heterodyne Interferometer (SHI), to perform global temperature measurements of the upper atmosphere to provide data for climate models and for gravity wave characterization. The deployment on a Chinese technology satellite is intended to demonstrate the potential of such measurements.

The goal is to measure emission lines of the O2A band at 762 nm. Since the intensity distribution follows the Boltzmann law of thermodynamics, the temperature can be determined from the emission lines.

Emission lines of O2A bands with temperature dependency

Spatial Heterodyne Spectrometer (SHS)

The SHS is a relatively new instrument type, which can be described as a combination of a grating spectrometer and a Fourier-transform spectrometer. Its visual appearance is similar to a Michelson Interferometer, where the mirrors in the arms are replaced by reflection gratings. The figure below illustrates the concept of the SHS. Light enters the system from the left and gets divided in a beam splitter (BS). Each beam diffracts at a grating (G1, G2), which is tilted with the Littrow angle.

SHS concept

Successful start on December 22, 2018

At 0:51 CET, a rocket of type "Long March 11" traveled from the Chinese Jiuquan spaceport into a sun-synchronous orbit. At an altitude of 1100 km, AtmoSHINE orbits the earth along the day-night boundary on board a technology demonstration satellite.

After a first test phase, it is clear: The measuring instrument works perfectly under harsh space conditions. First measurement data has already been downloaded and is currently being evaluated. "We expect to be able to measure spatially high-resolution temperature distributions in a multi-kilometer-thick atmospheric layer at a height of 90 kilometers over the planned lifetime of the satellite of at least one year.", explains Prof. Dr. Ralf Koppmann from the Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Wuppertal.

The successful project is an important milestone on the way to developing an AtmoCube constellation to study the dynamics of the atmosphere.

In Space: First Light

Scientific publication:

Kaufmann, M., Olschewski, F., Mantel, K., Solheim, B., Shepherd, G., Deiml, M., Liu, J., Song, R., Chen, Q., Wroblowski, O., Wei, D., Zhu, Y., Wagner, F., Loosen, F., Froehlich, D., Neubert, T., Rongen, H., Knieling, P., Toumpas, P., Shan, J., Tang, G., Koppmann, R., and Riese, M.
A highly miniaturized satellite payload based on a spatial heterodyne spectrometer for atmospheric temperature measurements in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 3861-3870,, 2018.

Last modified: 28.04.2022

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