Skip to main content

TULLAHOMA — The University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) Aviation Systems program flew its first science mission to collect critical data for national institutions.

In April, a UTSI crew flew over eastern Tennessee for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD), located in Oak Ridge. Flying its highly instrumented Piper Navajo Airborne Science Research Aircraft, the Aviation Systems team collected scientific data over Crossville and near Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

NOAA ATDD conducts research on air quality, climate and dispersion, providing data that impacts issues of national and global significance. It is collaborating with the UTSI to obtain airborne measurements of the Earth’s surface temperature over selected U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) ground measurement sites. The data collected will help NOAA detect and attribute present and future climate change. It also will be used to improve satellite data accuracy.

UTSI’s aircraft is integral to this mission because it can obtain data over a wide area, over and around ground sites, instead of from a single point on the Earth’s surface.

With the help of NOAA ATDD, UTSI is planning to erect a ground station near the UTSI campus to provide valuable climate data and provide a unique opportunity for UTSI researchers to become involved with climate research and novel sensor development.

This mission is the start of a series of airborne science flight campaigns by UTSI. This month, UTSI will team up with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to fly the Marshall Airborne Passive Microwave Imaging Radiometer (MAPIR) to collect surface temperature data. This summer, the Aviation Systems airborne science team will head to the Gulf of Mexico to collect atmospheric mercury data for the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory.

The UTSI Airborne Science program is supported by Associate Professor Stephen Corda, Associate Professor John Muratore, Professor Peter Solies, Assistant Professor Richard Ranaudo, research engineer Borja Martos, head aircraft mechanic Greg Heatherly, aircraft mechanic Shane Porter, budget administrative specialist Brenda Brown, and graduate students William Moonan, Joe Young and Jonathan Kolwyck.

The UTSI airborne science research is made possible through funding provided by NOAA, totaling more than $1.5 million for the next two years.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,

Madge Gibson (931-393-7213,