CIRS Propylene Discovery on Titan

December 19, 2013

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

The Cassini spacecraft has been exploring Saturn and its rings and moons since it arrived in 2004. One of the instruments onboard is the Cassini Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) – an instrument ideally suited to identifying molecular constituents within Saturn’s and Titan’s atmospheres. Recently, using instrument command sequences validated by SESDA 3 operations personnel and science telemetry calibrated by SESDA 3 programmers, a CIRS team scientist was able to confirm the presence of propylene gas in Titan’s atmosphere, the first such discovery of the chemical on any Solar System body other than Earth. The news was featured both on JPL’s Website and on

Record-Setting Data Transfer

December 9, 2013

Record-setting SC13 rack
At the SuperComputing 2013 event in Denver, Colorado, SESDA’s High End Computer Networking (HECN) Team achieved a record network data transfer rate of over 91 Gigabits per second (Gbps) for a disk-to-disk file transfer between a single pair of high performance RAID servers across a 100 Gbps Wide Area Network (WAN), with one server located at SC13 and the other at NASA Goddard. This record was made possible by collaborating with the Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX), the Department of Energy’s ESnet, Brocade, the University of Chicago’s Laboratory for Advanced Computing (LAC), and Northwestern University’s International Center for Advanced Internet Research (iCAIR). The high-performance servers were custom built by Mike Stefanelli, one of four ADNET Systems employees working on the HECN team.

The attached picture was provided by Jarrett Cohen (NASA/GSFC) and shows the RAID server (x100ssd) and the loaner Brocade MLXe4 switch in the portable rack that HECN sent to SC13.

Cubesat Launched To Study Lightning

December 5, 2013

Firefly Cube Sat
SESDA 3 engineers made significant contributions to the mechanical and electronics design and fabrication of the Firefly ‘cubesat’ satellite, which was launched successfully on November 19, 2013 on a Minotaur rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Firefly will study Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGF): bursts of extremely high energy photons produced by lightning. Although lightning is a familiar phenomenon, the kinds of interactions required to produce intense TGF are not well understood, and are of increasing interest to the atmospheric sciences community and to the public. Despite its small size, Firefly promises a significant scientific payoff in the area of TGF, thanks in part to the ingenuity and hard work of SESDA 3 staff. For more information about Firefly and TGF, see:

MAVEN Launches

November 22, 2013

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft was successfully launched on November 18, 2013 from Cape Canaveral.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft was successfully launched on November 18, 2013 from Cape Canaveral. This mission will investigate the Martian upper atmosphere with the objective of understanding the evolution and loss of gases over time, and determining the present state of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Central to achieving these goals will be the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) which will measure the composition and isotopes of thermal neutrals and ions, and the Magnetometer (MAG) experiment which will measure the planet’s outer magnetic field. These sophisticated instruments were developed and built at GSFC with significant support by SESDA 3 engineers in the Code 699 Planetary Environments Laboratory and the Code 695 Planetary Magnetospheres Laboratory, respectively. MAVEN is expected to reach Mars in September 2014, when its atmospheric measurements will be analyzed jointly with soil measurements obtained with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument (also developed using the expertise of SESDA 3 engineers) on the Curiosity rover.

Using ‘Excess’ Equipment, SESDA 3 Animates the Martian Landscape

November 15, 2013

Conceptual Image Lab - Mars Transition
SESDA 3 staff supporting the NASA/GSFC Conceptual Image Lab led the creation of a video that depicts the transition of Mars from an ancient habitable world to a cold desert. The animation was created in collaboration with the new MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) mission spacecraft which is scheduled to be launched on Nov 18, 2013. The video, which has been widely distributed by national news and social media sites, was rendered entirely on computers that were recovered and recycled from excessed equipment.

More details are available at the following link:

SESDA 3 Engineers at GES DISC Preserve Legacy Data

November 15, 2013

SESDA 3 Engineers at GES DISC Preserve Legacy Data

SESDA 3 Engineers at GES DISC Preserve Legacy Data

NASA’s earth observation missions commenced with the TIROS and Nimbus satellites in the 1970s and continue to the present day. NASA’s earth science activities have led to increasingly sophisticated satellite instruments, much larger data volumes, more complex data analyses, and a diverse suite of data products generated with sophisticated data algorithms. The data from these missions constitutes a vital archive for earth science research.

One of the challenges of maintaining the ‘usability’ of this data archive is data preservation. This term means not just keeping the actual data in a safe, secure, and robust system – it also means maintaining the availability of related information necessary to use the data in a secure archive, far into the future.

As part of this effort, the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) has recently completed a data preservation campaign for data from the High-resolution Dynamic Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) instrument, which is an instrument on the Aura Earth Observing System (EOS) satellite, launched in 2004. The GES DISC is the designated data archive for HIRDLS data.

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LADEE Launches

September 11, 2013

LADEE liftoff
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory successfully launched on September 6, 2013 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This robotic mission will study the moon’s atmosphere and dust particles using a suite of advanced instruments, one of which is the Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS) that was developed at GSFC with significant support by SESDA 3 engineers in the Code 699 Planetary Environments Laboratory.

(Image credit: NASA)

New Catalog of the X-Ray Sky

August 19, 2013

The XMM-Newton X-ray telescope was launched in December 1999 and has been obtaining deep, sensitive pictures of X-ray emitting sources in space ever since. Using the powerful ALICE supercomputer, scientists at the XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre have examined every XMM image and have painstakingly catalogued each and every X-ray source detected by XMM-Newton. This catalog, called the “3XMM Catalog”, contains over a half million X-ray sources, including over 370,000 unique sources. Two SESDA staff members helped create the catalog.

Large Hole Tears Open Our Sun

August 6, 2013

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) media personnel produced remarkable images of an extensive coronal hole that appeared to cover almost one quarter of the Sun; one of the largest coronal holes ever observed. The magnetic field lines in a coronal hole extend out into the solar wind rather than coming back down to the Sun’s surface as they do in other parts of the Sun. This image was obtained in extreme UV light and shows the darker (and cooler) hole region adjacent to much brighter (and hotter) plasma. The images were posted as the SOHO Pick of the Week, and were featured on numerous media web sites including Huffington Post, Fox News, UPI, Weather Channel, and The Telegraph.

SESDA Staff Study Oklahoma Tornados

June 4, 2013

Tornado system air temperature map

Tornado system air temperature map

SESDA3 team members working at the GES-DISC used data from missions archived at this center to produce initial quick looks at the formation of the super tornados that impacted the US State of Oklahoma.  The news on Monday, May 20, 2013 was dominated by pictures and videos of the massive EF-5 tornado that demolished a large part of the community of Moore, Oklahoma, causing
several tragic deaths and extensive damage.  This storm resulted from a relatively common springtime weather pattern, where hot air meets humid air and creates a perfect environment for the growth of supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes over the Great Plains states.
A low pressure system over Dakotas was the cause of the circulation pattern that created the conditions for the Oklahoma thunderstorms.  The far southern zone of the cyclonic circulation around the low pressure area extended south from Colorado and Kansas, pushing and converging extremely warm air at the surface over Texas. Infrared brightness temperatures (Tb) measured by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) in that region were in excess of 320 K (red). Warm, humid air flowing from the Gulf of Mexico provided the moisture source for the storms as these two air masses converged.

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