Ball on team building orbital pollution monitor

BOULDER — Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is the only private company in a team selected by NASA to build a space-based instrument to monitor air pollutants across North America, the company said Monday.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, although total mission costs are to be capped at $90 million, according to a press statement. Boulder-based Ball Aerospace will be part of the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, or TEMPO, mission team led by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, according to the press statement.

Ball is a division of Broomfield-based Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL).

The team will build a geostationary ultraviolet-visible spectrometer that can measure ozone, aerosols and other trace gases over North America. The instrument will be able to deliver regional hourly readouts of atmospheric data during daylight hours, which can be used to show how air pollution affects climate change and air quality across the continent, according to the press statement.

While Ball Aerospace has worked on instrument development for low Earth orbit before, the TEMPO spectrometer will be the company’s first geostationary instrument for NASA, Cary Ludtke, vice president and general manager for Ball’s Civil and Operational Space business unit, said in the press statement.

“With TEMPO’s assistance you may eventually check your smart phone, for example, to obtain a readout on your city’s current air quality information before you lace up your sneakers and head out for a run,” Ludtke said in the press statement.

Ball Aerospace has been involved in building instruments such as the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite, which is flying aboard the climate and weather satellite Suomi NPP, as well as the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment, an optical system for the James Webb Space Telescope.

The new instrument is expected to head up to space as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite in September 2017, according to the press statement. Other members on the TEMPO team include NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina; and several U.S. universities and research organizations.

Ball Corp. and its subsidiaries employ more than 14,500 people worldwide and reported 2011 sales of more than $8.6 billion.

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