The Utah State University-built research device that probed the Earth's upper atmosphere from the space shuttle Discovery has done its job.
Now comes the hard part - breaking down and organizing the data."As I understand it, we got 150 percent of the data we expected. It exceeded our expectations," said USU professor Ed Vendell, a mechanical and aerospace engineering expert who spent the past week at Johnson Space Center monitoring the project.
USU scientists built the Cryogenic Infrared Radiance Instrument for Shuttle, or CIRRIS, for Strategic Defense Initiative researchers.
The telescope-like device used infrared sensors and a radiometer to obtain information on the infrared character of the Earth's upper atmosphere, where the tracking and engagement of ballistic missiles could occur.
"We haven't looked at the data tapes," Vendell said. "But it appears we've got all the data we ever dreamed of. All indications are that we captured it. We don't anticipate any problems."
CIRRIS and other instruments on Discovery collected data needed to develop sensors and computer software that can differentiate between atmospheric and space backgrounds and the signature of a missile or re-entry vehicle.
If the sensors work properly, they could be installed in surveillance satellites or missile intercept systems.
Discovery ended its eight-day military mission Monday, landing at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
CIRRIS will be removed and flown back to Logan for the lengthy project of reviewing information in the recorders. It will take roughly two years to work through the research vehicle's tape recordings, Vendell said.
Unlike previous Pentagon flights, Discovery's mission was not classified, but most of the data will be.
Vendell said USU is building another Star Wars research vehicle, a satellite called Spirit 3, scheduled for an April 1992 launch aboard a Delta 2 rocket.
Spirit 3 is expected to have a 2-year orbit life, he said. Its mission has not been disclosed.