Prof helps land NASA grant

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photo of John Harlander, physics professor

John Harlander, physics professor and inventor, is part on an international team that has earned a $1 million grant from NASA.

A St. Cloud State University physics professor is a part of an international team of researchers who earned a $1 million National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant for evaluation of potential future science missions.

“This is the first hurdle in getting funding for a satellite mission,” said John Harlander, who is co-investigator on the ICON team (Ionospheric Connection Explorer).

The ICON mission is to understand the extreme variability in the Earth’s ionosphere, which can interfere with communications and geopositioning signals, both of which are of national concern.

The team has 11 months to complete the study which then will go on to compete for a chance to be awarded a satellite mission and receive a budget of up to $200 million.

“If ICON is selected by NASA for a satellite mission St. Cloud State will contribute to it through the design, fabrication, pre-flight testing and data analysis supporting one of ICON’s primary instruments,” Harlander said.

"The instrument will measure the dynamics of the Earth’s upper atmosphere by measuring subtle changes in the light emitted by atmospheric gasses. This instrument has grown out of a 20-year program at SCSU to develop small, light and rugged optical instruments for applications in atmospheric science and astro-physics that to date has resulted in three space-based and numerous ground-based instruments,” he said.

Harlander designed and helped build spectrometers that have been launched aboard sounding rockets, attached to large telescopes at national observatories, flown on the Space Shuttle and circled Earth on satellites.

His work in space science has earned him awards and patents. He is a world leader in Spatial Heterodyne Spectroscopy, a class of radiation-detecting instruments he developed with his chief collaborator, Frederick Roesler of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

NASA is the United States' civilian program for aeronautics and aerospace research.

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