CU Boulder Awarded $57.4 Million Contract with NASA

October 13, 2018 GMT

The University of Colorado was awarded a nearly $57.4 million contract with NASA’s Langley Research Center to build an instrument to be installed on the outside of the International Space Station.

CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics will build an instrument in partnership with Langley on its the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory Pathfinder mission that will measure sunlight reflected from the Earth and will calibrate satellite sensors that monitor the Earth system. The technology is meant to improve the accuracy of the measurements scientists take of changes on Earth, including climate change.


Peter Pilewskie, the CU lead scientist, said the advancements in technology will allow scientists to detect changes faster and with more accuracy than with conventional technology.

“Detecting change in the Earth system, including climate change, is very difficult,” he said. “We’re pretty sure there’s change going on around us. We’ve got rising sea levels and melting ice caps and things like that, but to be able to monitor this from space, we have to be able to detect changes in energy flows.”

The steady changes in the energy flows are difficult to detect, he said, and this technology will improve that practice.

The instrument is scheduled to be installed on the outside of the International Space Station in 2023 for a one-year mission. The short-duration mission will demonstrate certain aspects of the technology, Pilewskie said.

The pathfinder mission is a precursor to another mission called Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory to improve the accuracy of Earth observations from satellites.

A NASA website for the later mission says it “will monitor the pulse of the Earth to better understand climate change. The foundation for that mission is the ability to produce highly accurate and trusted climate records. These tested climate records can be used to lay the groundwork for informed decisions on mitigation and adaptation policies that address the effects of climate change on society.”

The CU laboratory was part of the mission’s science team for more than a decade, and it was given two NASA awards through proposal competitions to develop the balloon versions of this instrument, Pilewskie said.

The information collected will help inform policymakers about causes and mitigation strategies, he added.

Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, cniedringhaus@dailycamera.com