Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry



First Advisor

Chris W. Brown


Infrared spectral measurements of the space shuttle glow were successfully conducted during the STS-39 space shuttle mission. Analysis indicates that NO, No+, OH, and CO are among the molecules associated with the infrared glow phenomenon. During orbiter thruster firings the glow intensities in the infrared are enhanced by factors of 1Ox to 1OOx with significant changes in spectral distribution.

These measurements were obtained with the Spacecraft Kinetic Infrared Test (SKIRT) payload which included a cryogenic infrared circular variable filter (CVF) spectrometer (0.6 μm to 5.4 μm) and a number of infrared, visible, and ultraviolet radiometers (0.2 μm to 5.4 μm and 9.9 μm to 10.4 μm). In addition, glow measurements were unsuccessfully attempted with the Cryogenic Infared Radiance Instrumentation for Shuttle (CIRRIS-1A) with its 2.5 μm to 25 μm Fourier transform interferometer.

SKIRT CVF obtained over 14,000 spectra of quiescent shuttle glow, thruster enhanced shuttle glow, upper atmosphere airglow, aurora, orbiter environment, and deep space non-glow backgrounds during its eight day mission. The SKIRT radiometers operated almost continuously throughout the mission to provide a detailed history of the IR/VIS/UV optical environment associated with the operation of large spacecraft structures in low earth orbit. This dissertation will primarily address those measurements conducted by the SKIRT spectrometer as they relate to space shuttle glow in the infrared.

The STS-39 Space Shuttle Discovery was launched from the NASA Kennedy Space Center on 28 April 1991 into a 57 degree inclination circular orbit at an altitude of 260 km.



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