Sep 1994 at 22:22 UT
Canaveral, pad 39B
(Dick) Richards, commander|
L. Blaine Hammond Jr. (KC5HBS), pilot
Jerry L. Linenger (KC5HBR)
(launched and retrieved)
Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment (LITE 1) and SAREX
Also on board were 12 Get Away Special (GAS) experiments designed and built by
high school and university students, an Orbit Stability Experiment (OSE), and a
Robot Operated Materials Processing System (ROMPS).
Lidar is essentially radar using an optical wavelength laser instead of
microwaves. LITE consists of a Spacelab pallet with a laser transmitter and a
receiver telescope. In an interesting historical note, the 96-cm receiver
telescope was built in the 1960s as the engineering model for the telescope on
the OAO-B satellite, lost in a 1970 launch failure. It was refurbished for the
According to Dr. M. Patrick McCormick, LITE project scientist and branch
head of Langley's Aerosol Research Branch, the LITE mission was 100 percent
successful. One mission highlight was the collection of spectacular data on
Super Typhoon Melissa. From the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Discovery, LITE
passed directly over the eye of the typhoon and profiled the eye-wall clouds
from the top to the sea surface below.
Unlike passive instruments which measure the amount of heat emitted or light
reflected by only the highest layer of multi-layered clouds, LITE is able to
penetrate the highest clouds and provide scientists with data about clouds at
many levels below. The LITE data also revealed high cirrus clouds which were
not seen in the standard meteorological satellite data and are often not
expressed in atmospheric models.
Using the three different wavelengths aboard LITE also allowed Browell [Dr.
Edward Browell is a senior scientist in Langley's Chemistry and Dynamics
Branch] and his team to identify the types of aerosols they were measuring.
Browel said, "Remotely, we can detect whether the aerosols we're seeing are
biomass burning or whether they're desert aerosols (sands)." Biomass burning
generates green-house gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone. Aerosols
also affect the Earth's energy budget by scattering sunlight back into space,
thereby cooling the Earth. Aerosols can also increase the amount of clouds
present by acting as surfaces upon which water vapor can condense.
The LITE system obtained a spectacular data set, demonstrating the ability of
lidar remote sensing techniques to study the Earth's atmosphere. A future
space-based lidar system is being studied. This future system would fly on a
satellite in low-earth orbit and provide daily coverage of global cloud
characteristics and aerosols created by dust storms, biomass burning and urban