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Ball Aerospace Wins NASA Earth Science HAWC-OAWL Research And Development Contract

BOULDER, Colo., May 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has received a contract from NASA to build a High-spectral-Resolution-Lidar for Aerosols Winds and Clouds - Using the Optical Autocovariance Wind Lidar (HAWC-OAWL) to help scientists better understand how the wind transport of aerosols and water vapor affect air quality and cloud formation.

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The existing OAWL technology has successfully flown on NASA-funded test flights. The three-year, $4.3M contract award for HAWC-OAWL will allow Ball Aerospace to adapt OAWL to measure profiles of aerosol properties simultaneously with profiles of wind speed and direction, and to demonstrate the full system performance with additional airborne flight testing.

"Ball has been developing this type of lidar technology since 2002 and we're eager to see it matured and flown again," said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager for Ball's Civil Space and Technology business unit. "This program will advance the instrument technology for future space-based global Earth system studies."

HAWC-OAWL is one of 17 technology proposals selected under NASA's Instrument Incubator Program for further development to enable Earth observation measurements while reducing risk, cost, size, volume, mass and development time. The instruments and instrument subsystems chosen will enable future Earth science measurements and visionary concepts through the Earth Science Technology Office in support of NASA's Earth Science Division.

"The HAWC-OAWL measurements will help scientists better understand how co-located aerosols and winds interact in cloud formations," said Ball's Principal Investigator Sara Tucker. "Understanding this interaction is critically important for predicting cloud properties and brightness."

The first OAWL system was demonstrated and validated in comparison ground tests with a NOAA wind lidar in 2011. In 2011, test flights at NASA Johnson Space Center demonstrated and validated the original, autonomous, airborne OAWL on the NASA WB-57 aircraft. Ball will reconfigure the existing OAWL technology to add a second laser wavelength and enable HAWC-OAWL to point in two directions at the same time.  The system will then be able to characterize airborne particles, while simultaneously measuring wind profiles to provide information that is critical to the Earth's energy and water cycles, air quality and climate.

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