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Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere



The scientific purpose of the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission is focused on the study of Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs) that form about 50 miles above the Earth's surface in summer and mostly in the polar regions. The overall goal is to resolve why PMCs form and why they vary. AIM expected lifetime is at least two years.

AIM will measure PMCs and the thermal, chemical and dynamical environment in which they form. This will allow the connection to be made between these clouds and the meteorology of the polar mesosphere. This connection is important because a significant variability in the yearly number of noctilucent ("glow in the dark") clouds (NLCs), one manifestation of PMCs, has been suggested as an indicator of global change.

The body of data collected by AIM will provide the basis for a rigorous study of PMCs that can be reliably used to study past PMC changes, present trends and their relationship to global change. In the end, AIM will provide an expanded basis for the study of long-term variability in the Earth's climate.

The AIM scientific objectives will be achieved by measuring near simultaneous PMC abundances, PMC spatial distributions, cloud particle size distributions, gravity wave activity, cosmic dust influx to the atmosphere needed to study the role of these particles as nucleation sites and precise, vertical profile measurements of temperature, H2O, OH, CH4, O3, CO2, NO, and aerosols. AIM carries three instruments: an infrared solar occultation differential absorption radiometer, built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Utah State University (Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment, SOFIE); a panoramic ultraviolet imager (Cloud Imaging and particle Size Experiment, CIPS); and, an in-situ dust detector (Cosmic Dust Experiment, CDE), both designed and built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation constructed the spacecraft bus and GATS, Inc., Newport News, VA led the data management effort.

The AIM satellite was to be launched into a circular 550 km sun-synchronous noon orbit by a Pegasus rocket.

Alternate Names

  • 31304
  • AIM
  • AIM
  • Explorer 90
  • Small Explorer/AIM

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2007-04-25
Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Space Physics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. Dieter K. Bilitza



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Hans G. MayrProject ScientistNASA Goddard Space Flight
Dr. James M. Russell, IIIMission Principal InvestigatorHampton
Dr. Michael T. McGrathProject ManagerUniversity of
Dr. Scott M. BaileyDeputy Mission Principal InvestigatorUniversity of

Other Sources of AIM Data/Information

AIM Project

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