ROCHESTER, N.Y. — New York based Exelis reports that it has landed a $3.5 million NASA contract to support research that aims to improve understanding of climate change. Exelis will participate primarily by supplying LiDAR sensors to help track how weather systems transport carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases in the atmosphere.
Exelis will provide the Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America project with a version of its Multi-Functional Fiber Laser LiDAR (MFLL) for integration into NASA’s aircraft. The sensors will be used on five different flight campaigns.
The MFLL uses light in the form of an intensity modulated continuous wave laser to measure the difference in absorption of the atmosphere at two closely spaced wavelengths. This allows scientists to determine the number of a specific molecule, such as carbon dioxide, in a column of air. LiDAR is ideal for this purpose because it can measure at night, at high altitudes, and through clouds–all places where passive sensing meets difficulty.
In a statement, Exelis program manager and senior scientist Jeremy Dobler said that improving identification and predictions of carbon dioxide and methane sources is crucial. “This is key because we really don’t know enough about the carbon cycle to take steps to predict and manage its environmental effects.”
The NASA contract is the latest of several climate-related ground-, air- and space-based climate monitoring programs Exelis has won in 2014.