19/10/2017

PACKMAN B in the air again


A unit of the balloon version of the Particle Counter K-index Magnetic Anomaly (PACKMAN-B) has been carried to Esrange Space Center (SSC) to be included in a balloon campaign. The launch window opens on Oct. 18th, and Samuel Konatham and Abhilash Vakkada, the members of the Atmospheric Science Group who are on charge of the works with the instrument, are already at the Center to accomplish the Flight Compatibility Test and the Flight Readiness Review.
The campaign is framed in a collaboration programme agreed between Atmospheric Science Group and Esrange Space Center, and will serve as a demonstration of the benefits such collaboration could contribute for both parts. The Group would count on a regular launching schedule to gather information by means of the instrument, which apart from filling the gap of data regarding the incident radiation from space, will help to keep on developing the instrument’s related project.
In turn, SSC would obtain critical environmental data upon which optimizing the balloon and rocket launches from the center, as well as the scientific outcome to be obtained from them.
PACKMAN project is intended to monitor the type, amount, and energy of the space radiation reaching the lower layers of the atmosphere and the surface on the vicinity of the magnetic north pole, as well as their temporal variability and geographical distribution in the arctic region with relation to the anisotropies in the Earth magnetic field. Currently there are very few monitoring points for this kind of radiation, providing scarce and fragmented information about this phenomenon, whose influence on weather and climatic processes is important though almost completely unknown.
The instrument is a robust, low cost space weather monitoring station which can be used anywhere on the planet surface, as well as on the lower atmosphere and near space environment. PACKMAN is available in two different versions: PACKMAN-G, thought to be settle on the ground, and PACKMAN-B, to take measurements from balloons, thought to operate at the same time when possible to define a vertical profile of the monitored incident radiation.
Whereas the G version is already working at several locations, this is going to be the second trial of the B one. The first test was carried out in Córdoba, Spain, last July 30th. For that occasion, it was built a Flight Model applying the specific design the launch in a balloon poses, and now the same unit is basically the one to be used, with minor changes to adapt it to the particular requirements of the campaign. But this is the first time such a kind of measurements are going to be recorded in the Arctic region, the most expose to the effects of the incident space radiation. The ground reference will be the measurements which are being taken from the LTU’s space campus in Kiruna, where it was installed the first PACKMAN G.
The final goal of the PACKMAN project is to establish a surface network of instruments in the arctic region, whose continuous monitoring will be complemented by systematic measurements from balloons, to monitor the different parameters determining the space weather. A considerable dataset to fill the gap of knowledge about their influence in atmospheric processes (such as cloud nucleation), and to climate evolution in the long term within a region that is especially sensitive to the climate change, will be contributed this way.


PACKMAN B core and the instrument being prepared for the preliminar tests. Esrange workshop. Credits: Atmospheric Science Group