HARP — from USU’S Space Dynamics Lab — is winning in space

The Space Dynamics Laboratory announced that satellite operators are flying NASA spacecraft from their homes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This August 2019 composite image illustrates NASA's Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter CubeSat that is currently being operated by SDL. (Credit: NASA/Space Dynamics Laboratory)
NORTH LOGAN – A small satellite named HARP — designed and manufactured by Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) —has been providing scientists with unprecedented images from space since its deployment from the International Space Station in February.
Tim Neilsen, SDL program manager for HARP, said it is up in space to measure specific atmospheric conditions from above, looking down. HARP is an acronym for HyperAngular Rainbow Polarimeter satellite. Neilsen said during the satellite’s year in space, orbiting at about 200 miles above the earth, it will measure the microphysical properties of cloud water and ice particles.
“And from all of the data that is collected in these specialized images they’re able to determine particulates in the air, (like) dust storms, ash from volcanoes, different elements that are really important for weather and climate that aren’t really visible in a normal image that a camera would take.”
But he said they are visible in the specialized camera instrumentation that is onboard HARP.
Neilsen said HARP validates that earth science from space can be achieved by small satellites.
“As with most technology, most things are shrinking. We see that in consumer electronics. You’re able to do a lot more in a small package that 10 years ago wasn’t even possible in electronics ten times the size. So, we’re really seeing that revolution occurring in space.”
A composite illustration of the HyperAngular Rainbow Polarimeter satellite. Photo: NASA and SDL

HARP is the epitome of a small satellite: the spacecraft bus that actually carries the payload is about the size of a loaf of bread.

Utah State University’s popular “Small Satellites Conference” of years gone by is underway this week, but is rolling out virtually and HARP is nominated for “Small Satellite Mission of the Year.”

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