SwRI Planetary InfraRed Spectrograph (SPIRS) Capability Development, 15-R9808Printer Friendly Version
Inclusive Dates: 04/01/08 – 10/01/09
Background - SwRI initiated a preliminary design study of a mid-infrared spectrograph instrument optimized for planetary missions. This continued study positions SwRI for future NASA mission and suborbital experiment proposals to conduct planetary infrared observations. Relatively few instruments capable of mid-infrared (mid-IR) studies of the planets are currently in flight, yet this wavelength region provides many unambiguous measurements of atmosphere and surface temperatures and constituents. The focus of the current design is to implement observations of atmospheric methane and ethane on Mars, and methane, ethane, and acetylene on Jupiter. Many other applications for such mid-IR planetary observations exist, including Earth atmosphere observations of greenhouse gases. These topics are timely because they support the search for life on Mars, our understanding of Jupiter's aurora, and Earth climate change.
Approach - This project began with developing a design for a versatile, compact, and low-power mid-infrared spectrograph.
Accomplishments - The results of this project were limited by schedule conflicts with many of the project researchers involved in launch preparations for SwRI's Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) instrument, and other projects. Nonetheless, researchers performed an initial survey of appropriate mid-IR detector arrays and have since had many useful discussions with a possible vendor. Detailed optical design trade studies were completed using a professional ray-tracing software tool. Once the team's availability improves instrument concept development will continue.