February 1, 2023

High-Flying NASA “NACHOS” Compact Hyperspectral Imager May Help Predict Volcanic Eruptions

NASA is introducing a model instrument that could make it easier to keep track of volcanic activity and air quality. Perched aboard a CubeSat about 300 miles (480 kilometers) above Earths surface area, the “Nanosat Atmospheric Chemistry Hyperspectral Observation System,” or NACHOS, will use a compact hyperspectral imager to locate sources of trace gases in areas as little as 0.15 square miles (0.4 square kilometers)– about the size of the Mall of America in Minnesota. NACHOS is part of Northrop Grummans 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASAs Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
NACHOS will stay aboard Northrop Grummans Cygnus spacecraft up until May 2022, when the spacecraft will unberth from the International Space Station and place NACHOS in low-Earth orbit before the freight spacecraft reenters Earths environment. He anticipates NACHOS to stay in orbit for about one year.

NACHOS CubeSat. Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory
” An inactive volcano just waking up may release SO2 prior to there is any detectable seismic activity. That offers us a possibility to recognize a potentially erupting volcano prior to it in fact blows,” said Steve Love, a scientist and job lead with the Space and Remote Sensing Group at the Department of Energys Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Atmospheric trace gases from human-made and natural sources supply scientists with special insights into a wide array of Earth systems. For instance, nitrogen dioxide, frequently produced by burning fossil fuels, negatively impacts human health and can work as a tracer for co2 (a greenhouse gas that adds to environment modification) that arises from human activity.
File image of a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft in the grip of the International Space Stations Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA
” When we acknowledge that these gases exist and can localize their sources on a sub-kilometer scale, we have the opportunity to take action and minimize negative health outcomes,” said Love.
Keeping an eye on trace gases needs instruments delicate enough to gather high-resolution data; generally, thats suggested creating bigger satellites equipped with a complete suite of powerful sensors.
” There are excellent instruments in orbit event information on climatic trace gases, however they are expensive to preserve and produce. If we desire to expand this scientific capability, well require a more economical option,” said Love.
A researcher holds NACHOS, fixed to a CubeSat with its photovoltaic panels unfolded. Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory/Logan Ott
At simply 13 pounds (6 kgs) and 18 cubic inches (300 centimeters cubed), NACHOS is well certified to end up being that service. In addition to an ultra-compact hyperspectral imager capable of collecting high-resolution information, NACHOS also uses onboard processing algorithms, which minimize both the size of its data transmissions and the amount of time it requires to pass on those transmissions back to Earth.
These algorithms run especially well on small computer systems, giving NACHOS large amounts of computational power without increasing the instruments size or weight.
“More power and less weight set NACHOS apart and make it an exceptional prospect for future atmospheric trace gas objectives,” said Love.
NACHOS will remain aboard Northrop Grummans Cygnus spacecraft until May 2022, when the spacecraft will unberth from the International Space Station and location NACHOS in low-Earth orbit prior to the freight spacecraft reenters Earths environment. Love and his group will spend 3 months commissioning NACHOS prior to it starts its innovation recognition and science mission. He anticipates NACHOS to remain in orbit for about one year.
“That will offer us sufficient time to confirm our instrument style and gather sufficient test information to guarantee our technology concept is feasible,” stated Love.
A 2nd NACHOS instrument will head to low-Earth orbit in winter of 2022 as part of the U.S. Department of Defenses Space Test Program.
The prototype is funded through the InVEST program in NASAs Earth Science Technology Office.

NASA is launching a model instrument that might make it much easier to keep an eye on volcanic activity and air quality. Set down aboard a CubeSat about 300 miles (480 kilometers) above Earths surface, the “Nanosat Atmospheric Chemistry Hyperspectral Observation System,” or NACHOS, will utilize a compact hyperspectral imager to locate sources of trace gases in areas as small as 0.15 square miles (0.4 square kilometers)– about the size of the Mall of America in Minnesota. NACHOS is part of Northrop Grummans 17th resupply objective to the International Space Station from NASAs Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
If effective, NACHOS will be the smallest, highest resolution space-based instrument committed to monitoring climatic trace gases like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide, leading the way for future Earth-observing systems that will not just help predict volcanic eruptions, however likewise monitor air quality around particular cities, communities, and even specific power plants.

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