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Leonid MAC

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Mission Brief
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1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Destination: 1998 mission 1999 mission 2000 campaign 2001 mission 2002 mission

Which facilities are participating in 2002?

FISTA aircraft

FISTA is a modified NKC135-E aircraft. It has 20 upward-looking window ports oriented at different  angles for maximum coverage of the sky. Main instruments are near-Infrared and mid-Infrared spectrometers of Aerospace Corporation and AFRL. Infrared sensors detect the comparative heat of objects. Spectrometers take the light appart in its colors. FISTA also carries a compliment of visible and ultra-violet spectrometers and imagers of other researchers for a total of 10 experiments.This US Air Force aircraft is now operated by the 418th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB. The aircraft is named FISTA, for Flying Infrared Signature Technology Aircraft. The aircraft was retired in 2004, shortly after the Genesis SRC entry observing campaign.  

Instrument Layout.

DC-8 aircraft

The NASA DC-8 Airborne Laboratory Program at NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center operates a DC-8-72 aircraft to acquire data for airborne science research. The DC-8 is a medium altitude, moderate to high speed aircraft flying up to 41,000 feet above sea level between 425 and 490 knots True Air Speed(TAS) and well matched with FISTA. The DC-8 can accomodate remote sensing instruments at the zenith, 8 degree, and 62 degree elevation viewports. There are external antenna attachment mounts, wing pylons, optical windows, and a gyro stabilized mirror system. The platform will provide the capability for stereoscopic observations by flying at 100 km distance from FISTA, and is planned to provide near-real time flux measurements and remote sensing experiments targeted at atmospheric research.

Instrument Layout.

Why an airborne mission?

The concept is  to bring together scientists from different disciplines and cooperatively  observe the meteors using a wide range of techniques. Only an airborne  mission can bring scientists to the right place at the right time  to view the Leonids, and guarantee clear weather. Leonid MAC  is a short timeframe, low-cost, high-yield research endeavor that  takes advantage of off-the-shelf equipment and mission- ready research  aircraft.  The mission centers around a research aircraft that will serve as observing  platform for video cameras and scientific instruments.

The 2002 Leonid MAC mission follows highly successful airborne missions in 1999 and 2001, which gathered a bounty of scientific data during what were the first meteor storms since the 1966, and the first to be observed by modern observing techniques. Rates increased to 4,000 meteors per hour in 1999 and 1,300 per hour in 2001. The 2002 campaign can potentially double this sample by observing two more storms with expected peak rates of about 4,000 and 5,000 per hour.

An airborne mission makes it possible to:

Avoid  poor November weather by flying above the clouds
Avoid scattering of light by dust and air  for Lidar and UV observations
Rise above low-altitude haze for a clear  and transparent sky
Rise above water vapor blocking near- and mid- infrared wavelengths

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