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75 Years of Space Instrumentation Development at the University of Michigan Space Physics Research Laboratory

AIAA 2021-1113
Session: History of Astronautics I
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This paper traces the beginnings of the University of Michigan Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) from 1946 to today through the instruments that were developed for exploration of the Solar System, the spacecraft that flew these instruments, and the people that developed these instruments. The paper elaborates on five scientific instruments that represent important contributions of the specific era made by the faculty and staff at SPRL. The Dumbbell satellite of the 1950’s and 1960’s contributed to our early knowledge of the ionosphere. The Galileo Neutral Mass Spectrometer (GNMS) developed in the 1970’s, established SPRL as a leader in mass spectrometry electronics development for planetary exploration that continues today. The TIMED spacecraft Doppler Interferometer (TIDI) developed in the 1990’s greatly improved methods to measure wind speeds in the thermosphere-ionosphere-mesosphere utilizing a unique four-telescope single etelon Fabry-Perot Interferometer. The Fast-Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS) provided measurements of the velocity, composition, and density of particles in Mercury’s magnetosphere by leveraging the development of a novel time-to-digital technique. The CYGNSS constellation of small satellites is leveraging the Global Positioning Satellite network and the onboard Delay Doppler Mapping Instrument (DDMI) to measure winds over the ocean underneath tropical cyclones. Each of these instruments and the respective development teams have contributed to space instrument engineering and our understanding of Earth and our Solar System.