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Notes from the Field

A Return to Dryden!

March 25th, 2011 by Kelly Brunt

March 24, 2011

Greetings from Palmdale, California.

Our Goddard-based team is at Dryden Flight Research Center testing an instrument named MABEL, which stands for “Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar”. MABEL is an ICESat-2 simulator, which we fly the instrument at high altitudes over various terrain to test the satellite’s measurement concept.

We were out here last December for MABEL’s maiden voyage. For the December deployment, we flew 5 test flights that included targets that would tell us about MABEL’s capabilities, such as ocean water, lake water, snow, salt flats, mountains, vegetated regions, and places where we had other datasets for ground control. I’ve attached a photo of MABEL before she entered the nose cone of the ER-2 (below).

We’ve returned to Palmdale to fly MABEL again to test a new set of filters that have been added to the instrument to filter out background noise, stemming from natural sunlight. These ‘etalon’ filters are a critical component to MABEL’s design, allowing us to fly during daylight hours.

So instead of being in the aircraft hanger until the middle of the night (like we were in December), we now have to arrive to the hanger super early … This ‘morning,’ two of us were awake between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. In order to finish out this day, I have now had approximately eight cups of coffee today. I’ll write about our first flight tomorrow. Stay tuned …

About the blogger:
While at NASA, Kelly Brunt has been working on ICESat-2, where her duties include flight planning for Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL). MABEL is a high-altitude, airborne instrument intended to assess the new lidar concept associated with ICESat-2. Read more about Kelly here.

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