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HamSCI Founder Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, Awarded $481,260 NASA Research Grant


Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) founder Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF — an assistant professor in The University of Scranton’s Physics and Engineering Department — has been awarded a $481,260 grant through the NASA Space Weather Applications Operations Phase II Research Program. Frissell will serve as principal investigator for a research project entitled, “Enabling Space Weather Research with Global Scale Amateur Radio Datasets.” He’ll collaborate with Philip Erickson, W1PJE, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Haystack Observatory and Bill Engelke, AB4EJ, at the University of Alabama.

“This grant includes significant funding for participation of Scranton undergraduate students in this research, as well as support for new computation resources,” Frissell said. He explained that the grant will fund “the development of an empirical model for the prediction of traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs) in high-frequency radio communications while investigating the geophysical drivers of these disturbances.” The grant will cover 2 years of work.

Frissell said that the predictive, empirical TID models will be developed  using data collected by the Reverse Beacon Network, WSPR, and PSKreporter — automated, global-scale radio communication observation networks operated by the amateur radio community. Undergraduate students will help the faculty researchers to create algorithms used for the model development.

This new NASA award complements a 5-year National Science Foundation grant of more than $616,000 that Frissell received in 2020. That investigation aims to understand the source of TIDs observed in amateur radio and other scientific datasets.

In 2019, Frissell received a $1.3 million National Science Foundation grant to fund a 3-year initiative to measure modulations produced in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The grant supports a collaborative team to develop the HamSCI Personal Space Weather Station, a modular, multi-instrument, ground-based space science observation platform used to study variability in the coupled geospace system and to better understand HF radio propagation.

This is Frissell’s second NASA grant. A space physicist, he is among the researchers working on a NASA Living with a Star Program (LWS) project, “Wave-Driven Asymmetries in the Ionosphere-Thermosphere due to Asymmetries in the Northern and Southern Polar Vortices.” That project is being led by Richard Collins of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.