SPECTRE's Payload: The Technical Edge, and the Instruments.
SPECTRE Payload Components

The XR-100T will measure X-Rays.

The MD-501 will measure UV and other high energy spectra.

The S2000 will measure visible spectra.

Facilities Used to Build SPECTRE

The ECE (Electrical and Computer) Engineering Department took care of the entire payload computing and power systems. Note, this link is currently not yet active, but it will take you to the main engineering offices.

The Center for Space Physics provided guidance in the design, fabrication, operation and analysis.

The actual technical implementation was highly complex. The SPECTRE payload has 2 microprocessors, as well as extensive power and transmission systems. It also has an electromechanical system to open the system up to the atmosphere in a near vaccuum. Besides opening up in a vaccuum, the system also has to seal itself for an ocean splashdown, and more importantly, it has to float for the recovery! Additionally, the system must be rugged enough to endure up to 10-15 G forces (10-15 times the pull of gravity).

The payload electronics was designed and built, as part of a senior project class (SC466) by several electrial and computer engineering undergraduate teams of the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) department. This occurred over a span of 2 years. BU's Space Physics Department undergraduate interns helped design the payload structure with faculty guidance, and with some structural analysis help from BU's aero/mech engineering department undergraduates.

There are 3 instruments onboard the payload which will measure and observe the radiation spectra (see left). The XR-100 will measure high energy X-Rays. Since the atmosphere blocks out most high energy x-Rays, the XR-100T will only be able to observe the x-Rays above 50 km in altitude. The MD-501 will collect information on UV, or ultraviolet, radiation levels. UV is becoming more of a concern today due to the depletion of the ozone layer, and the increase in skin cancer levels. Observing the UV radiation will provide information on ozone and gas distribution in the upper atmosphere. The S2000 is the most important instrument of the 3, since it can measure radiation from high energy UV all the way to visible light. Because of the S2000's broad capabilities in observation, it will be observing the atmosphere for much of the flight when the payload bay is open to the atmosphere.

SPECTRE is helping in the effort to provide "hands on" access to space to undergraduate students. In accordance to the "Faster, Better, Cheaper" philosophy of NASA, all the instruments are off the shelf, with Amptek donating the XR-100T and MD-501, and the S2000 purchased from Ocean Optics Inc. In addition, several partnerships were forged within BU's school system, Wellesley College, local industry.

All systems were designed and built on campus.

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David Nghiem
Last modified: Fri Aug 13 14:23:23 EDT 1999