Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) Mission

Context:

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission- Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)- that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.

About Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) Mission:

  • It will be launched in August 2022 and will be attached to exterior of Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
  • Objective of AWE is to study and focus on airglow, a colourful bands of light in Earth’s atmosphere to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in upper atmosphere.
  • It will be the first such experiment to obtain global observations of important driver of space weather in dynamic region of Earth’s upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.
  • AWE is a Mission of Opportunity under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency’s larger missions.

Need for this mission:

  • Studying space weather is significant as it can have profound impacts, affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and at its most severe, overwhelming power grids.
  • It was earlier thought that only Sun’s constant outflow of ultraviolet (UV) light and particles, solar wind, could affect airglow region. However, now researchers have learned that solar variability is not enough to drive changes observed at this region and Earth’s weather also having effect on it.
  • Hence to understand this deeper, AWE mission will investigate how waves in lower atmosphere, caused by variations in densities of different packets of air, impact upper atmosphere.

Source:TH