UAF installs radome over cutting edge new satellite dish off the Richardson highway

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 5:01 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - For this Sci-Friday, we visited the Alaska Satellite Facility, where a new radome was installed over the University of Alaska Fairbanks' (UAF) most state-of-the-art NASA radar dish.

While it may look like a dream come true for a golf playing giant, the radome is a specialized protective shell that keeps the radar antenna safe from bad weather conditions, while at the same time allowing electromagnetic signals to pass through it. This dish can still transmit and receive signals uninhibited, while also staying safe indoors through the Alaskan winter.

The Alaska Satellite Facilities Director, Interim Vice Chancellor of Research Nettie La Belle-Hamer discussed the exciting scientific work that will be conducted: “NASA has a large division of earth observations that supply scientists in the U.S. and all over the world with very interesting data they get from satellites. Here at the Alaska Satellite Facility we work with NASA to downlink the data, process it, and get it into the hands of the science community”

“The science research that we do here is very important to the state of Alaska as well as the United States. What we observe here with the satellites that we talk to using these antennas are things like sea ice change, and coastal erosion. We observe volcanos and the aftermath of earthquakes. Anything that is an earth process, we can observe it from space. The satellites that we use primarily here at the Alaska Satellite Facility are radar, and because of the complex nature of the radar data we’re able to get down to the centimeter looking at changes that happen in the earth. And processes here in the arctic are even more important” La Belle-Hamer said.

But in addition to being a step forward in scientific advancement, the work performed in collaboration between UAF and NASA provides ample opportunities to UAF students.

“One of the exciting things about doing this work with NASA is that at the university, we are on the cutting edge of technologies. We’re leading some of the research projects, but more importantly we’re engaging the students in these projects. So there’s opportunities for students at the undergraduate level, [and] at the graduate level. And I would like to see as many Alaskans as possible come into our program and get trained. This past summer we had three of our students be NASA interns over the summer, so it’s a very exciting opportunity” La Belle-Hamer said.

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