AWE Mission Quick Facts

Launch: November 9, 2023 via NASA’s SpaceX CRS-29 (Commercial Resupply Service) mission to the International Space Station

Operations: Two-year observation from the International Space Station

NASA Science Mission Directorate: Heliophysics Division

PI Institution: Utah State University leads the mission, science investigation, science operations, and data analysis

Mission Operations: Space Dynamics Laboratory provides the flight instrument and mission operations center

The whole Earth is shown in greyscale with white and grey lines of atmospheric gravity waves hovering above it.
A motion graphic depicting atmospheric gravity waves gaining energy and breaking into space.

AWE Science

  • Understand how atmospheric gravity waves (AGWs) near the mesopause (~87 km altitude) vary by season and region
  • Identify the dominant dynamical processes controlling AGWs
  • Estimate how AGWs formed in the troposphere (surface to ~10–15 km) affect the ionosphere-thermosphere-mesosphere (ITM) (50–500 km)
  • Focus on small-scale (horizontal wavelength, ~30–300 km) AGWs entering the ITM system from Earth
Atmospheric gravity waves seen as ripples in the clouds

Atmospheric Gravity Waves

  • Often form in the troposphere (surface to ~10–15 km)
  • Are created during air displacement, such as severe weather or wind rushing over geographic features
  • Carry energy and momentum into the upper atmosphere before breaking
  • Affect upper-atmospheric space weather and GPS signals near the edge of space
  • Can be detected in Earth’s airglow layer using infrared technology
  • Are not the same as gravitational waves (ripples in space-time associated with supernovae and black holes)
Mission team members working on the AMTM instrument in a cleanroom.

AWE Payload

  • Wide-field (90°) infrared imaging radiometer
  • Four identical telescopes
  • Measures the P1(2) and P1(4) emission lines of the hydroxyl (3,1) band, or Earth’s OH layer
  • Measures the infrared background in the OH band
  • Captures one nighttime image every second
  • Weighs 58 kg
Atmospheric Waves Experiment
© Space Dynamics Laboratory 2024
PrivacyPrivacy for ChildrenTermsContact Us

The material is based upon work supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Contract Number 80GSFC18C0007.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.