Kira Hart Shanks Takes Project from Concept to Launch into Near Space

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, November 30, 2021

    Kira Hart Shanks, fifth-year Ph.D. student at OSC, was recently featured in a UANews article about the research she is pursuing with Dr. Meredith Kupinski. "It's not typical for a doctoral student to progress a technology from design to fabrication to assembly, then to deployment and even analysis of field measurements," Kupinski said. The project aims to better define invisible clouds' shape, size, and distribution among other characteristics—and Kira has taken the project from design to build, and soon will launch on a NASA CubeSat Mission. These clouds are important for our understanding of their impact on Earth's radiation budget – the amount of heat from the sun trapped or released by the Earth's atmosphere – as well as forecasting future storms. Kira shared that she has had a great deal of support and resources to accomplish her goals, saying, "It wouldn't have been possible anywhere else." Read the full article.

    This work is in large part thanks to a NASA Future Investigators grant Kira received. The work has involved many other people at UArizona, including optical sciences research professor Chang Jin Oh. He and his team in the Optical Engineering and Fabrication Facility led the optomechanical design of the instrument and provided instrument assembly support. Optics graduate student Jeremy Parkinson led the mechanical and electrical design of the balloon payload, and a 2020-2021 Undergraduate Engineering Interdisciplinary Capstone team helped to select the parts for the instrument and modeled how the parts would perform in the extreme environment of near space.