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ELJOnline: Embedded Real-Time Linux runs NASA's Solar Spectral Flux Radiometer

Mar 26, 2002, 08:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Sam Clanton)

"When I moved to the West Coast to take a job at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, I was impressed with the variety of equipment and software that scientists at the center use to conduct their research. I was happy to find that I was just as likely to see a machine running Linux as one running Windows in the offices and laboratories of NASA Ames (although many people seem to use Macs around here). I was especially happy to find that the particular group with whom I was going to work, the Atmospheric Physics Branch at Ames, relied almost entirely on Linux machines for their day-to-day work. So it was no surprise that when it was time to construct a new control system for one of their most important pieces of hardware, a switch from an unpredictable DOS-based platform to an embedded Linux-based one was a decision easily made.

"The system I am working on is called the Solar Spectral Flux Radiometer (SSFR), a PC/104-based system custom-built by Warren Gore at Ames. Gore, Dr. Peter Pilewskie, Dr. Maura Rabbette and Larry Pezzolo use the SSFR in their research. The team working on the controller project consists of Gore, John Pommier and myself. The SSFR is used by the Ames Atmospheric Radiation Group to measure solar spectral irradiance at moderate resolution to determine the radiative effect of clouds, aerosols and gases on climate, and also to infer the physical properties of aerosols and clouds. Two identical SSFRs have been built and deployed successfully in three field missions: 1) the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Enhanced Shortwave Experiment (ARESE) II in February/March, 2000; 2) the Puerto Rico Dust Experiment (PRIDE) in July, 2000; and 3) the South African Regional Science Initiative (SAFARI) in August/September, 2000. Additionally, the SSFR was used to acquire water vapor spectra using the Ames 25-meter base-path multiple-reflection absorption cell in a laboratory experiment..."

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