UI physicists win NASA funding to build space instrument

UI physicists win NASA funding to build space instrument

University of Iowa physicists have won funding from NASA to design, build, and test a compact instrument that can measure a wider spectrum of magnetic fields in space.

The researchers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy—David Miles, assistant professor, and George Hospodarsky, associate research scientist—will design and build a magnetic field detector, called a magnetometer, that can operate on a new generation of satellites that are as small as a loaf of bread.

The NASA funding for the project, called CHIMERA, is $1,030,000 for three years.

The idea behind CHIMERA is to build a magnetometer that can capture both low- and high-frequency magnetic fields. Currently, space craft have two magnetic field instruments on board: a fluxgate to detect low-frequency magnetic fields, and a search coil to pick up higher-frequency magnetic fields. These instruments are carried on poles, called booms, that can extend as much as nearly 40 feet from the spacecraft, to avoid picking up magnetic fields from the craft itself.

Hospodarsky and Miles aim to change that by combining the fluxgate and search coil into a single, smaller instrument. Once built, they will test it on the smaller satellites, which are being increasingly used for science missions in space.