The Space Environment and Satellite Systems (SESS) laboratory encompasses both ground-based and space-based detection of the space environment and modeling to understand how the space environment affects spacecraft.
In particular, SESS is developing the Meteoroid and Energetic Detector for Understanding Space Situational Awareness (MEDUSSA) spacecraft aimed at characterizing the electrical effects that result when a meteoroid or energetic particle impacts a satellite. This research also includes ground-based hypervelocity impact tests to characterize the RF emission as a function of frequency, point of impact and material strength. SESS is also focusing on understanding atmospheric effects on the ionosphere and how these ionospheric irregularities can disrupt or halt ground-to-space communication. Finally, we use ground-based radars from around the world, including Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, EISCAT in Sweden and ALTAIR on the Kwajalein Atoll to collect plasma data formed when a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere. We use these data with sophisticated models to understand the natural debris population and their potential damage mechanism to satellites.