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Center for Space Science and Engineering Research

Welcome back students!

Continuing in Spring 2021: Space@VT Seminar Series for students and researchers with space-related interests.

Researchers at Space@VT study the geospace environment...

...including the effects of space-weather events on the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere.

Using ground-based radar probes, sounding rockets, high-altitude balloons, and satellites, we investigate phenomena like the 2017 solar eclipse; effects of short and long duration solar variability on the Earth’s upper atmosphere; upper atmospheric dynamics, chemistry and radiation; coupling phenomena between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere; and polar mesospheric clouds.

ECE Team Installs Space Weather Instrument
An ECE team installs space weather instrument station for the 40-degree magnetic meridian chain in the Antarctic.

Geospace upper-atmosphere investigations

ECE researchers operate six autonomous, adaptive remote data collection platforms on the East Antarctic plateau. The platforms support fluxgate and induction magnetometers, dual frequency GPS receivers, and a high-frequency radio experiment to investigate high latitude space weather phenomena. Recent research has focused on magnetohydrodynamic wave events initiated by solar wind pressure pulses and seasonal interhemispheric differences in conductivity.

Exploring the upper atmosphere in the long polar night

A sounding rocket program is underway to explore the upper atmosphere of the Earth’s polar night. This region is difficult to access and is relatively unobserved. We are particularly interested in the concentration of aurora-produced nitric oxide—which is a catalytic destroyer of ozone. The long polar winter nights are expected to contain large levels of nitric oxide, but with few observations, this is not well understood. 

Sounding Rocket
To unlock mysteries of the geospace environment, ECE researchers send experiments up on sounding rockets and develop payloads for satellites.

Aeronomy of ice

ECE researchers are engaged in further studies of middle atmosphere gravity waves in NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice (AIM) mission. New algorithms to determine stratospheric gravity wave morphology will be applied to more than 10 years of AIM observations to form a unique dataset for studying the coupling of the Earth’s upper and lower atmosphere.

Impacts of space-weather events on the ionosphere

ECE researchers will be conducting atmospheric gravity wave studies via in-situ measurements of wave perturbations in the ionosphere and remote sensing of the middle atmosphere. These measurements can then be correlated with weather maps of the lower atmosphere, allowing for atmospheric coupling studies over a wide altitude range.

Radiative impacts of pollutants

ECE researchers are developing new instrumentation to observe the radiative impacts of pollutants. The new instruments are compact, robust, and suitable for implementation on constellations of satellites.

Virginia Tech SuperDARN HF radar facility
The Virginia Tech SuperDARN HF radar facility located in western Kansas.

Mapping geospace phenomena

The Virginia Tech Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) operates five high-frequency (HF) radars. We are investigating cause-and-effect influences in the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system using a variety of ground- and space-based datasets. Recent research examined the north-south inter-hemispheric symmetry of the Sub-Auroral Polarization Stream (SAPS).

Mapping polar ionospheric field-aligned currents

An ECE investigation examined how the currents flowing in and out of the ionosphere respond to the interplanetary electric field, the product of the solar wind velocity and Earth’s magnetic field. We found that the magnetic field-aligned currents have a linear response to the level of solar wind driving, which was surprising since the electric fields in the ionosphere have been known to level off, or saturate, as the interplanetary electric increases.

News Highlights

The Hume Center, with Space@VT affliated faculty and students, has been working on getting some more eyes on the skies around Blacksburg. Read the VT News article for more info about the milestone that has been achieved so far on this project!

Congratulations to Dr. Scott Bailey, Space@VT director, on being named a Bradley Senior Fellow Faculty by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors! More information can be found in this VT News article.

Student Assembly of ThickSat
Photo by Gustavo Gargioni.

Congrats to the ThickSat team as their satellite passed vibration testing and has been integrated into the capsule ready for launch on NG-15 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.  Read the VT News article for more information on this satellite built by students.  Launch is currently scheduled for Feb. 20th, 2021, but follow the Space@VT LinkedIn for more updates.

Dr. Bob Clauer and undergrad students from Virgnia Tech joined students from University of Albany and University of Michigan on the summer 2019 science expedition to Greenland.  Their trip was captured in a spetacular video by the University of Michigan that was posted in December 2020.

We're excited and proud to announce Space@VT's parent departments have been highly ranked in the prestigious Shanghai Rankings.  The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been ranked 9th in the US and 12th in the world.  The Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering has been ranked 10th in the US.  Great job ECE and AOE!

NASA recently funded two new rapid-turnaround projects focused on COVID-19. Jennifer Kaiser at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and Elena Lind at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, are examining the pandemic’s impact on air quality related to reduced airport traffic, read more.

Yuxiang (Phillip) Peng

Yuxiang (Phillip) Peng successfully defended his PhD dissertation entitled 'GNSS-based Hardware-in-the-loop Simulation of Spacecraft Formation Flight: An Incubator for Future Multi-scale Ionospheric Space Weather Studies.' Congratulations Phillip!

From the edge of space, NASA’s ICON satellite is transmitting images and data to science team

Launched last autumn, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, mission set out to increase our understanding of the ionosphere and its potential impact on communications, GPS, and space weather prediction, read more.

Space@VT Director Scott Bailey’s sounding rocket launched this earlier this week in Alaska. Congratulations Dr. Bailey and team on your outstanding achievement!

Virginia Tech researchers contribute to upcoming NASA mission

“We’re really trying to explore this connection between weather systems in our atmosphere that we might experience outside and also this environment on the edge of space,” said project scientist Scott England.

England leads the team at Space@VT and across the United States to be able to better predict extreme changes from weather to GPS signal interference, read more.

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Commonwealth of Virginia invests in aerospace industry, universities to stimulate economic growth

The Virginia SmallSat Data Consortium, a research center co-led by Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Virginia Research Investment Fund, an initiative to position Virginia as a leader in satellite and data collection and stimulate economic growth in the aerospace sector.

The two-year grant will launch the consortium, which also includes industry partners, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and NASA Langley Research Center. The project has secured $1.8 million in additional funding as a condition of the grant award, read more.

Space@VT alum Evan G. Thomas receives Basu United States Early Career Award for Research in Sun-Earth Systems Science, read more.

Kshitija Deshpande Wins Prestigious NSF Early Career Award,

Virginia Tech students watch as rocket blasts off from Wallops Island

For the past several years, a team of 50 undergraduate students from the College of Engineering and the College of Science developed Virginia Tech's CubeSat at the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research. 

The initiative began in June 2016 as part of the Virginia CubeSat Constellation,  a collaborative effort between the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and four of its member universities: Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, and Hampton University, read more.

Satellite built by Virginia Tech undergraduates ready for launch into space

One small step closer to reaching space, a group of Virginia Tech undergraduate students recently delivered their small satellite to Houston to be incorporated into NanoRacks’ commercially developed CubeSat deployer. Virginia Tech’s satellite, along with two satellites from other Virginia universities, is scheduled to launch on the payload section of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket and then will be headed to the International Space Station, read more.