Space Environments Sensors

SDL has been active in space environment and space weather research for over five decades.  SDL has fielded nearly 400 sensor systems and instruments to investigate and understand the phenomena that affect the many layers of Earth’s atmosphere and the geomagnetic field, as well as spacecraft and terrestrial activities such as communications.

Plasma and Fields

SDL develops in-situ Langmuir probes, electric field double probes, magnetometers, plasma wave probes, RF probes, and ion flow and composition meters to perform plasma diagnostic experiments.  These probes measure critical ionospheric and magnetospheric parameters such as geomagnetic field strength and direction, plasma density, composition, and temperature, plasma drift, plasma potential, and electric field strength, direction, and frequency. These parameters are key to understanding the ebb and flow of geospace and to help understand the phenomena and changes associated with space weather.


SDL develops remote sensing UV, visible, and IR electro-optical sensors and in-situ mass spectrometer and neutral wind flow meters and Falling Spheres to measure and observe activity in earth’s upper atmosphere. These probes measure critical upper atmospheric parameters such temperature, composition, and winds.

In addition, SDL/USU develops and maintains ground-based remote sensing all-sky imagers, Lidars, and Imaging Doppler Interferometry and Meteor Wind Radars to investigate dynamics and long-term (climatological) trends in Earth’s middle and upper atmosphere. These ground-based facilities observe temperature as well as winds, tides, and waves and their dynamics, turbulence, and energy and momentum transfer characteristics to help understand atmospheric climate patterns and change as well as Earth’s overall energy budget.

Space Weather Modeling

USU has developed physics-based data assimilation models for the ionosphere, called the Global Assimilation of Ionospheric Measurements (GAIM). The GAIM models provide specifications and forecasts for global distributions of ionosphere densities, temperatures, and drifts.

The USU-GAIM models have been selected for operational use at the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) in Omaha, Nebraska, and one of them became operational in December 2006. This model is also being used at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).