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Proceedings Paper

SWUIS-A: a versatile low-cost UV/VIS/IR imaging system for airborne astronomy and aeronomy research
Author(s): Daniel D. Durda; S. Alan Stern; William Tomlinson; David C. Slater; Faith Vilas
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Paper Abstract

We have developed and successfully flight-tested on 14 different airborne missions the hardware and techniques for routinely conducting valuable astronomical and aeronomical observations from high-performance, two-seater military-type aircraft. The SWUIS-A (Southwest Universal Imaging System- Airborne_ system consists of an image-intensified CCD camera with broad band response from the near-UV to the near IR, high-quality foreoptics, a miniaturized video recorder, and aircraft-to-camera power and telemetry interface with associated camera controls, and associated cables, filters, and other minor equipments. SWUIS-A's suite of high-quality foreoptics gives it selectable, variable focal length/variable field-of-view capabilities. The SWUIS-A camera frames at 60Hz video rates, which is a key requirement for both jitter compensation and high time resolution (useful fro occultation, lightning, and auroral studies). Broadband SWUIS-A image coadds can exceed a limiting magnitude of V=10.5 in<1sec with dark sky conditions. A valuable attribute of SWUIS-A airborne observations is the fact that the astronomer flies with the instrument, thereby providing Space Shuttle-like payload specialist capability to close-the-loop in real-time on the research done on each research mission. Key advantages of the small, high-performance aircraft on which we can fly SWUIS-A include significant cost savings over larger, more conventional airborne platforms, worldwide basing obviating the need for expensive, campaign-style movement of specialized large aircraft and their logistics support teams, and ultimately faster reaction times to transient events. Compared to ground-based instruments, airborne research platforms offer superior atmospheric transmission, the mobility to reach remote and often-times otherwise unreachable locations over the Earth, and virtually- guaranteed good weather for observing the sky. Compared to space-based instruments, airborne platforms typically offer substantial cost advantages and the freedom to fly along nearly any ground-track route for transient event tracking such as occultations and eclipses.

Paper Details

Date Published: 29 November 2000
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 4127, Airborne Reconnaissance XXIV, (29 November 2000); doi: 10.1117/12.408697
Show Author Affiliations
Daniel D. Durda, Southwest Research Institute (United States)
S. Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute (United States)
William Tomlinson, Southwest Research Institute (United States)
David C. Slater, Southwest Research Institute (United States)
Faith Vilas, NASA Johnson Space Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4127:
Airborne Reconnaissance XXIV
Wallace G. Fishell, Editor(s)

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