Flown on NASA’s ER-2 aircraft, a high-altitude aircraft based at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California
The Airborne Lunar Spectral Irradiance (air-LUSI) instrument will help characterize the Moon as a reference standard for calibrating satellite instruments used to study and monitor the Earth’s environment and climate. The uncertainty of measurements of the Moon’s brightness must be improved from a few percent to below 0.5% to calibrate instruments at the level needed for climate monitoring.
Primary developer of Air-LUSI instrument, which includes a telescope, and responsible for calibration. The automatic pointing system to lock the telescope on the Moon was developed by University of Guelph.
Air-LUSI has completed seven engineering and demonstration ER-2 flights, successfully recording lunar observations on six flights. It is scheduled to start official operation with more lunar observation flights in March 2022.
Other interesting facts:
The “near-space airplane” operates as high as 21 kilometers (about 13 miles) above sea level, to enable measurements above most of Earth’s interfering atmosphere. Air-LUSI flies at night to observe the Moon with the telescope mounted inside a wing pod. A robotic mount keeps the telescope tracking the Moon, compensating for aircraft motion.
NIST, University of Maryland Baltimore County, NASA Headquarters, NASA Goddard, University of Guelph and U.S. Geological Survey
NIST, University of Maryland Baltimore County, NASA Goddard, NASA Armstrong, University of Guelph and US Geological Survey