Remote Sensing and Space Science

Remote Sensing and Space Sciences is a broad discipline examining the interaction of electromagnetic fields with material media, concentrating on applications to the space sciences. It encompasses aeronomy, geosciences, atmospheric science, remote sensing, wave propagation, electro-optics, plasmascience, signal processing and communications.

Researchers carry out a wide range of theoretical and experimental programs in lidar systems, laser ranging and altimetry, optical communications, geophysical imaging, and signal and image processing.


RENOIR in Brazil

Sponsored by NASA, Remote Sensing and Space Sciences researchers deployed a suite of remote sensing instruments to two sites in northeastern Brazil to study the processes responsible for the development of irregularities in the nighttime ionosphere (200-400 km altitude).

By combining measurements from imaging, interferometry and radio receivers, researchers are investigating the coupling of the neutral and electrified atmosphere and the adverse irregularities therein can have on radio wave propagation. Instruments at the two sites will be coordinated to make measurements of the same physical phenomena at high spatial and temporal resolution. This instrumentation will complement other sites that CSL researchers are working with in South America, including Chile and Peru.

Andes Lidar Observatory

A sodium lidar system to measure winds and temperature in the upper mesosphere (80-110 km altitude) has been deployed to the University of Illinois Andes Lidar Observatory at Cerro Pachon, Chile. Researchers also installed a meteor radar, imagers and photometers at this site. The consortium of instruments will study the Atmospheric Gravity Waves (AGWs) and tidal waves present in this mountainous region, known for having a very active source of mountain forced waves. The studies will include their effects on the atmospheric circulation and instabilities at these upper altitudes.

3-Dimensional Solar Tomography

Researchers lead projects that offer the first systematic and comprehensive unraveling of the 3-D structure of the solar atmosphere (plasma density and temperature), incorporating computational imaging techniques with measurements from highly specialized instrumentation on NASA satellites and at NSF groundbased observatories. This research has profound implications for energy sources in the solar-terrestrial system and transient space weather phenomena that have potentially adverse effects on geo-space operations.


Group Contact:
Nancy Morris: 315 CSL
Phone: 217-333-9705

Research Faculty



Steven Franke: Radar and signal processing techniques development
Grace Gao: Systems, signals and control with a focus on satellite navigation and autonomous vehicles.
Chester Gardner (emeritus): Laser remote sensing (lidar), adaptive imaging
Farzad Kamalabadi: Solar-terrestrial remote sensing and imaging
Erhan Kudeki: Radar remote sensing, ionospheric plasma instabilities
Jonathan Makela: Optical & radio remote sensing, ionospheric physics
Michael Oelze: Ultrasonic imaging and therapy, acoustic wave propagation
Gary Swenson (emeritus): Atmosphere dynamics, optical remote sensing
George Swenson (emeritus):  Antennas for communication and wireless sensing; atmospheric and ionospheric measurements; coherent optics/imaging; electromagnetics and optics; radio and optical wave propagation.

Remote Sensing and Space Science Research News

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Gao gains College of Engineering honor for GPS research

03/27/2017 - 19:00   Aerospace Engineering Assistant Prof. Grace Gao has been selected for the College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research, an honor bestowed on only a handful of the college’s assistant professors each year.
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Chen places second at Boeing IT Case Competition

04/09/2015 - 19:00   Derek Chen, a first year master’s student in aerospace engineering, was recently awarded second place in Boeing’s IT Case Competition, a yearly intercollegiate competition that showcases student IT talent organized by Boeing.
Lara Waldrop

Waldrop co-develops recently launched ExoCube satellite

03/01/2015 - 18:00   Assistant Professor Lara Waldrop co-developed a CubeSat that is now in orbit, collecting data on the densities and composition of Earth's upper atmosphere.
Jonathan Makela leads the ionospheric study on the Illinois campus.

Near-space study helping to predict storms

02/12/2014 - 18:00   The 2011 Tohoku earthquake that devastated Japan had an epicenter some 19 miles below the earth’s surface and 70 miles from the Japanese mainland. The ensuing tsunami had devastating effects on the east coast of Japan and traveled across the Pacific Ocean. A consortium headed by engineers from the University of Illinois is discovering ways to study these types of events, not by sensing the movement far underground or in the ocean, but by measuring activity in the near-space environment, more than 100 miles above the earth’s surface. The near-space environment consists of both the ionosphere (plasma) and the neutral atmospheres (non-ionized molecules). - See more at:
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Gao's GPS research points to more reliable, secure systems

07/01/2013 - 19:00   The Global Positioning System (GPS) does more than get you from point A to point B. It also serves as the backbone of many critical systems, ranging from the power grid to the stock market, that are essential to daily living and economic prosperity. CSL’s newest researcher, Grace Xingxin Gao, is helping to develop a secure and reliable framework for such capabilities.