UT Dallas Professor’s Experiment Blasts into Space
Project Dubbed CINDI to Study Phenomenon That Interrupts Radio Waves
April 24, 2008
An experiment run by a UT Dallas professor launched successfully this month into space on its way to a greater understanding of mysterious plasma bubbles that interrupt radio signals.
|Dr. Roderick Heelis is heading the Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamic Investigation.|
Dr. Roderick Heelis is heading the experiment, called the Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamic Investigation, more affectionately known as CINDI. Dr. Heelis holds a Cecil H. and Ida Green Chair in Systems Biology and is director of the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences at UT Dallas.
The NASA-sponsored mission is being conducted in cooperation with the Air Force. The rocket carrying CINDI launched from the underbelly of an Air Force plane on April 16.
The plasma bubbles that CINDI will investigate occur mainly above Earth’s equatorial region but wreak havoc on radio communications worldwide.
“Understanding when and where plasma bubbles occur, how severe they will be and how long they will last is vitally important since interference from plasma bubbles affects GPS signals and other radio signals that can travel around the globe by reflection from layers in Earth's upper atmosphere, called the thermosphere and the ionosphere,” Dr. Heelis said.
“These signals are used for communication and navigation by a wide variety of commercial and government entities, including the Federal Aviation Administration and search and rescue operations,” he said. “Most of us are directly or indirectly dependent on the proper function of these space-based systems, and it is imperative that we attempt to predict the times when such systems may not be reliable.”
CINDI will help uncover information that will help explain the relationships between charged and neutral particles in the atmosphere, allowing scientists to build a better forecast model for plasma bubbles for use in the Earth’s environment and in other planetary environments as well.
CINDI was launched April 16 on a Pegasus XL rocket carried aboard Orbital Science Corporation's L-1011 “Stargazer” jet.