PACKMAN planetary data legacy for the future: PSIDA

The PSIDA (Planetary Science Informatics and Data Analytics) conference, held in St. Louis, USA, organized by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the NASA Planetary Data System Geoscience Node and the McDonell Center for the Space Sciences, provides an international forum to discuss approaches, challenges, and applications of informatics and data analytics technologies and capabilities in planetary science. During three days from 24th to 26th April 2018 about 85 participants had the opportunity to share knowledge, experience, and lessons learned in these fields. Professor María-Paz Zorzano, of GAS (Group of Atmospheric Science), has given in this international forum a lecture about PACKMAN-Net: the archive and dissemination of the network of PACKMAN instruments monitoring space weather on Earth.

Banner of the PSIDA 2018 conference

When the PACKMAN instrument project started one and half years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that it would get to this point of maturity so rapidly. PACKMAN started as a brilliant seed-idea of Professors Mª Paz Zorzano and Javier Martín-Torres from GAS. The idea was then prototyped by two master students, Thasshwin Mathanlal and Abhilash Vakkada-Ramachandran who are nowadays PhD students of GAS, supervised by María-Paz Zorzano and presented for evaluation as a work-course in their master in Kiruna Campus. Therefore, PACKMAN is a good example of how GAS is able to transform a powerful “seed-idea” in cutting-edge space technology engaging in all the process other researchers and scientists and training the new generations of scientists and engineers.

But the story of PACKMAN is long. The prototypes built at GAS laboratories have demonstrated their operability and performance during the different testing campaigns carried out so far. These campaigns have demonstrated continuous correct functioning on the ground at several latitudes (PACKMAN-G version), and on board stratospheric balloons (PACKMAN-B version). There is even one of them permanently installed in Boulby Mine, UK, at 1.1 km depth, which is providing a constant flux of data since September 2017.

The underlying idea inspiring PACKMAN has called the attention of the international community and the users of the Planetary Data System (PDS). This project provides an example of scalable network of instruments following the new PDS4 standards, engaging society and monitoring at multiple sites and heights. This project is an interesting resource to extend the research possibilities of the PDS archive. The implementation of the PACKMAN-Net, is aiming at two main goals:

One of the operative prototypes of PACKMAN-B (balloon version).
Credits: Group of Atmospheric Science (GAS)/LTU
  1. To design an architecture that allows for scalability with multiple instrumental nodes of equivalent format that adhere to the PDS4 standard.
  2. To ensure an efficient management (discovery, access, retrieval and analysis) of the information provided by a network of PACKMAN instruments distributed over the world by merging information and preparing data mining tools both for science, education and outreach, and space-weather alert warning systems. It also aims at allowing global online access and to provide global monitorization of space weather on community-based ground observatories as well as in other atmospheric platforms such as balloons.

Now PACKMAN has been presented in the prestigious international congresses PSIDA to share its progress about archiving and sharing space weather data. The purpose of the presentation at PSIDA conference, entitled PACKMAN-Net: A Distributed, Open-Access and Scalable, Network of User-Friendly Space Weather Stations, is to demonstrate the operability and opportunity of deploying a network of this small-sized, autonomous, and low-weight instrument to be operated simultaneously, while stating the usefulness of counting on their real-time measurements for different scientific and monitoring applications.

PACKMAN was presented last year at the 23rd ESA Symposium on European Rocket and Balloon Programmes and Related Research is organised and sponsored by European Space Agency (ESA) and the Swedish Space Corporation in coordination with the Swedish National Space Board.

See the zip of the symposium here: thttp://pac.spaceflight.esa.int/docs/23%20PAC%20Symposium.zip

More on PACKMAN instrument and testing campaigns: