Operating in low Earth orbit, SWATS will monitor atmospheric densities, winds and temperatures while traveling in an elliptical orbit at altitudes between 350 and 700 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The payload rides aboard NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM).
“It’s important to have in situ [direct] measurements, as well as remote sensing measurements,” said Andy Nicholas, lead investigator for SWATS. “[Those measurements will] inform the models and improve predictions for the ionosphere.”
Navy researchers are studying the ionosphere because of its effects on over-the-horizon radar and other long-range communications technologies.