Superfast Networks on Display

December 28, 2011

Network researchers, including ADNET HECN staff, troubleshoot the high-bandwidth connection between Seattle and Greenbelt.

SESDA's High End Computing Network (HECN) group continues to break new ground in network speeds.  The group operates out of GSFC Code 606.1, the Networks and IT Security branch, and their project was cited as one of the top exhibits at the Super Computing 2011 (SC11) convention in Seattle last November.  The team demonstrated unprecedented high-speed data transfer rates using custom built RAID servers that achieved a lightning-fast 60 Gbits/sec disk-to-disk transfer rates across the nearly 3000-mile distance between Seattle and Goddard Space Flight Center, and 72 Gbits/sec locally.

The HECN group also had a successful proposal to the Department of Energy that allows them to use DOE’s Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI) 100G test bed.  Their project will allow them to evaluate advanced network cards as well as next-generation servers, performance measurement tools, and applications that will support highly parallel, multi-core architectures.  Their goal is to keep pushing the envelope as they approach 100 Gbit/sec transfer rates.  These enormously high bandwidths will prove critical as both NASA and the commercial world move towards cloud computing.

SESDA Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) Team Helps Confirm SO2 Reduction

December 5, 2011

SESDA II’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) team processes and archives critical ozone data from this spaceborne instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite.  The group has helped confirm that the introduction of the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 2005 has led to a big reduction in pollution from eastern US coal power plants.

Scientists have previously used the satellite's OMI to observe sulfur dioxide levels within large plumes of volcanic ash and over heavily polluted parts of China. But this is the first time they have observed such subtle details over the much-less-polluted United States. The secret is a new mathematical approach centered on averaging measurements within a 30-mile radius of a sulfur dioxide source over several years. It makes it possible to detect emissions at levels four times lower before.

The team also plans to use a similar technique to monitor other important pollutants that coal power plants release, such as nitrogen dioxide, a precursor to ozone.

SO2 OMI - A representative image from southern Ohio.

A representative image from southern Ohio.

The full article may be read at:
Other OMI data and images may be found at this website:

NPP Launch

November 3, 2011

On October 28, the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft was launched on a Delta vehicle from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  Instruments onboard will acquire climate and weather data measurements covering atmosphere, land and ocean.  Several critical measurement objectives are: climate change, ozone layer dynamics, disaster monitoring, weather prediction, vegetation, global ice cover, air pollution, and global energy budget.  NPP measurements will provide continuity with Earth Observing System measurements (1997-present) and other currently active and previously active spaceborne instruments.   SESDA personnel support the mission in a wide spectrum of activities.  Science writers and graphics designers support multiple outreach efforts. Our staff provide integration, test and operational data processing support to the Ozone Monitoring Instrument Science Investigator Processing System, which will now handle NPP Ozone Mapper Profile Suite data. Systems administrators are responsible for network and servers used in data transport as well as servers used to process Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite data. SESDA staff scientists and scientific programmers eagerly await processed data to feed models and analysis, which will help make progress in understanding mission science objectives.

NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP)

NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) will acquire land, ocean and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science. Upper left: The NPP instrument package following Thermal Vacuum testing at Ball Aerospace. Upper right: launch of NPP Oct. 28, 2011 on a Delta vehicle. Bottom: SESDA staff Christina Coleman, Aries Keck, and Ellen Gray of the NPP media team bundled up at 2 AM at the launch site. SESDA personnel also operate networks and systems supporting NPP data processing.


Training the Next Generation of Scientists

October 26, 2011

Mr. Huy Lam, a senior at Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, has been selected as a 2011 Siemens Science Competition semi-finalist. His research project was "A Multi-Spacecraft Approach to Studying Auroral Kilometric Radiation Using the Virtual Wave Observatory."
The Virtual Wave Observatory (VWO) is an online suite of tools and data that allows researchers to study Earth's aurora and similar phenomena throughout the Solar System.   As part of his internship, Huy compared radio frequency data from seven spacecraft using the VWO to study variations in long-wave radio emissions from Earth's Aurora. He quickly learned how to use the online system to access the necessary datasets and how to interpret the data to identify the features that were the basis of his research. He even submitted his work to the Journal of Experimental Secondary Science. Huy worked as a National Space Club Scholar during the past summer, mentored by SESDA staff member Leonard Garcia and Government scientist Shing Fung (673).

Fermi Captures Neutron Star Plunge

September 7, 2011

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, with comprehensive support provided by SESDA II scientists and software developers, recently yielded an unprecedented set of observations of a fascinating astrophysical binary system consisting of a neutron star and a massive star. Every 3.4 years the incredibly dense neutron star plunges directly through the disk of gas surrounding its companion, producing a spray of highly energetic gamma-radiation, and Fermi was uniquely equipped to record the most recent occurrence in great detail. You can read all about this fascinating event at

Successful Launch to Jupiter

August 18, 2011

On 5 August 2011, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The collective cheers of many SESDA II staff could be heard throughout the Goddard campus as it lifted off, a result of the many years of preparation and testing our programmers, instrument engineers, data technicians, and even summer interns had spent reaching this important milestone. Working on Juno’s Magnetic Field Experiment (MAG), our team was responsible for the design, fabrication, and testing of instrument subcomponents as well as the MAG’s integration with the spacecraft. Going forward, we’ll support the development of the Ground Data System used to communicate with, and process data from, the MAG experiment, generating maps of Jupiter’s incredibly strong magnetic field and providing new insight into the dynamics of its interior.

Goddard Science Visualization Lab’s Hyperwall

August 2, 2011

SESDA outreach staff is promoting the Goddard Science Visualization Lab’s Hyperwall as a showcase for NASA science. The most recent exhibition was at the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (IGARSS) 2011 meeting, Vancouver, Canada, July 25-29, 2011. A well-planned joint NASA/JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) public event was the highlight of the exhibit. Hyperwall technology was used to showcase stunning data visualization and to communicate science results to the public as well as to attendees. The goal is to promote international collaboration and data sharing. A special evening of a NASA and JAXA joint presentation was held July 25, 2011. The display is shown.

Webb Spinning

June 6, 2011

SESDA II staff were on hand recently to watch Goddard’s giant centrifuge in action. The ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) structure, a key piece of hardware for the James Webb Space Telescope, was installed on the centrifuge as part of the rigorous testing that all spaceflight hardware must undergo before it can be certified as flight-ready. Because this was only the initial balance testing, our intrepid staffer was able to directly observe the ISIM structure, securely wrapped in plastic, being slowly spun. To read a blog posting with more details and action photographs, please click here.

Webb Spinning

An Elementary Approach to Education and Public Outreach

April 5, 2011

The Day Joshua Jumped Too MuchThe "Think Scientifically" book series is a three part elementary school outreach program created by the SESDA II Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) E/PO team. The first book, entitled "The Day Joshua Jumped Too Much," addresses the Sun as Earth's ultimate source of energy. Joshua's dad teaches him that life on Earth would not exist without the Sun. The innovative feature in each book that sets it apart from other science stories is the Concept Enhancement Lesson Plan. The plans are designed with elementary teachers in mind, and include math, science, language arts, and reading connections. Because of the pressure to focus on math and reading at the elementary level, it's easy for science to be put in the back seat. The "Think Scientifically" book series will elicit ways for science to easily integrate with the math and reading curriculum.


SESDA II and JWST Challenge Students in the Real and Virtual Worlds

February 1, 2011

SESDA II and JWST Challenge Students in Real and Virtual Worlds

SESDA II staff supporting the James Webb Space Telescope are helping to promote and facilitate the RealWorld-InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge, a unique education initiative that targets students in grades 9-12 and encourages them to explore and build skills essential for successful careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math through two phases of project-based learning and team competition.

The Challenge invites high school students to work cooperatively as engineers and scientists to solve real-world problems related to the James Webb Space Telescope.  In Phase 1 students (working in teams of three-to-five) explore and design solutions to two real-world problems related to the James Webb Space Telescope. Teams who complete Phase 1 are then paired with participating college engineering students to begin Phase 2, the InWorld phase of the challenge.  Working in a virtual world setting, each newly formed InWorld team uses 21st-century tools to refine designs and create 3-D models of the Webb telescope.

A SESDA II staff member presented a poster promoting the project at the recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, WA. More information on this exciting project can be found at