Bath tech observes thunderstorms from space

Advanced cameras will monitor lightning to improve weather models
5th April 2018

Technology developed at the University of Bath is being installed on the International Space Station to observe weather patterns on earth.

The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) is an international collaboration, with Dr Martin Fullekrug from the University of Bath as the only UK-based academic involved in the project. He has spent more than 15 years conducting research which has contributed towards the development of ASIM.

“This experiment will give scientists all over the world the opportunity to study the effects of powerful lightning storms from the unique vantage point of the International Space Station.”

 

“I have been researching and investigating space and lightning events for over 15 years and the launch of ASIM feels like the pinnacle of my journey into understanding this phenomenon,” said Dr Fullekrug, (pictured right) reader in the University of Bath’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering.

“This is the first time such a detailed and technologically-advanced measurement device will be flown into space to observe lightning and will hopefully provide us with new knowledge about how lightning is initiated and how the properties of lightning can affect our daily lives in so many different ways,” he said.

The system weighs 314kg and is roughly just over a square cubic metre in volume, with optical cameras, fast light meters and X- and Gamma-ray detectors. Mounted on the ISS Columbus module at 400km altitude, it will observe lightning above thunderstorms between 10 and 100 km. This will help build more accurate weather models.

The ASIM equipment will also measure Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes, or TGFs, and the data from all the sensors will be combined with measurements recorded from geostationary meteorological satellites and ground-based observations.

The instrument was built by a number of international partners including: Technical University of Denmark (DTU); Danish defence and aerospace manufacturer, TERMA; University of Valencia, Spain; University of Bergen, Norway; the Space Research Centre in Poland; and Italian aerospace company, OHB-Italia. It is partly funded by the UK Space Agency through the UK’s investment in the European Space Agency (ESA).

“This experiment will give scientists all over the world the opportunity to study the effects of powerful lightning storms from the unique vantage point of the International Space Station. It’s another exciting moment for international space collaboration and commercial spaceflight, which the UK Space Agency supports through the Government’s Industrial Strategy,” said Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency.

A live stream of the launch is available to watch online at https://www.spacetv.net/live/launch-of-spacex-falcon-9-with-spx-crs-14/