NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Sigma Space have recently completed work on the first flights of MABEL, a multi-beam, high-altitude, photon-counting LIDAR altimetry system. The project is lead by ICESat-2 Instrument Scientist, Dr. Matt McGill. Its objective is to demonstrate the capabilities of high-altitude photon-counting altimetry and the various proposed beam patterns for ICESat-2. Flying aboard NASA’s ER-2 aircraft in Palmdale, CA, MABEL completed nearly 25 hours of flights at 65,000 feet in early December.
GSFC contracted Sigma Space Corp to provide proprietary time of flight electronics, photon counting technology, and instrumentation expertise to design, build, and fly MABEL on an aggressive 10-month schedule. All electrical, mechanical, and thermal subsystems were designed and built by our engineers and technical personnel, who then helped assemble and test the system at GSFC. Sigma engineers spent two weeks at Palmdale, with GSFC and Dryden personnel, to integrate MABEL into the ER-2 and manage the science data gathered from its first flights. Another Sigma built instrument, Goddard’s Cloud Physics LiDAR, gathered simultaneous corroboration data during these flights.