esc Aerospace Milestone contributions:
Solar Orbiter & STIX
A journey towards the Sun
Solar Orbiter aims to make significant breakthroughs in our understanding both of how the inner heliosphere works, and of the effects of solar activity on it. The spacecraft will take a unique combination of measurements: in situ measurements will be used alongside remote sensing close to the Sun to relate these measurements back to their source regions and structures on the Sun’s surface. It will operate both in and out of the ecliptic plane. Solar Orbiter will measure solar wind plasma, fields, waves and energetic particles close enough to the Sun to ensure that they are still relatively pristine.
The in situ instruments will operate throughout each orbit, whilst remote sensing will be confined to 30 days per orbit, in particular periods when the spacecraft is at its greatest angles to the solar equator, and during the closest approach to the Sun. During the nominal mission, Solar Orbiter will view the Sun from latitudes of up to 25°. This will enable the instruments to image the polar regions of the Sun clearly for the first time and make key measurements that will advance our understanding of the solar dynamo and the polarity reversal of the global magnetic field. After around seven years, Solar Orbiter will view the poles from solar latitudes higher than 30°, compared with 7° at best from the Earth.
STIX, or the Spectrometer Telescope for Imaging X-rays, is one of 10 instruments on board the Solar Orbiter, a confirmed M-class mission within ESA’s Cosmic Vision program. esc Aerospace will develop the Flight Software for the STIX instrument that is be integrated on the satellite along with the instrument itself.
The flight software and the instrument development is led by the aerospace industry and academic institutions from the Czech Republic, USA, Switzerland, Poland, France, Germany and the UK. The Solar Orbiter mission is scheduled to be launched in 2017.
Measuring the Earth’s magnetosphere
Swarm is ESA’s first constellation of Earth observation satellites designed to measure the magnetic signals from Earth’s core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere, providing data that will allow scientists to study the complexities of our protective magnetic field.
This shield is generated mainly deep inside Earth by an ocean of swirling iron in the liquid outer core. How the magnetic field is created and how it changes over time is complex and not fully understood. But with a new generation of sensors, the Swarm constellation will provide greater insight into these natural processes and the ‘weather’ in space.
esc Aerospace has designed, tested, developed and delivered the accelerometer payload that is installed in each SWARM satellite.
Swarm will be ESA’s fourth Earth Explorer mission in orbit, following GOCE, SMOS and CryoSat. Two will orbit very close together at the same altitude – initially at about 460 km – while the third satellite will be in a higher orbit of 530 km. The different near-polar orbits, along with the various Swarm instruments, improve the sampling in space and time. This helps to distinguish between the effects of different sources of magnetism.
MeteoSat 3rd Generation
3rd Generation weather satellites
Following on from Meteosat Second Generation, the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) is being created through cooperation between Eumetsat and ESA to ensure continuity of high-resolution meteorological data to beyond 2037.
This next series of geostationary weather satellites will be a step change by providing significant improvements over the capabilities of the current Meteosat generation. The series will comprise six satellites: four MTG-I imaging and two MTG-S sounding satellites. The two types will be positioned over the same longitude in their geostationary orbits.
The sounding element, which also carries the Sentinel-4 payload for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme as a guest payload, is a key innovation. For the first time, Meteosat satellites will not only image weather systems, but also analyse the atmosphere layer by layer and provide deeper insight into the complexities of its chemical composition.
The first MTG-I satellite is expected in late 2017, with the first MTG-S following in early 2019.
Living with a Star program continues
CORONAS-Photon (Complex Orbital Observations Near-Earth of Activity of the Sun), is a Russian Solar research satellite. It is the third satellite in the Russian Coronas programme, and part of the international Living With a Star programme. It is currently scheduled to be launched on 20 December 2008, from Site 32 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, aboard a Tsyklon-3 rocket, which will be making the final flight of the Tsyklon family of rockets.
CORONAS-Photon is a successor to the CORONAS-F and CORONAS-I satellites, launched in 1994 and 2001 respectively. It will be operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute and the Research Institute for Electromechanics. It was built using a bus constructed for Meteor-M weather satellites, and will operate in a 500 x 500km x 82.5 grades polar low Earth orbit. It is expected to be operated for three years.
esc Aerospace developed SphinX (Fast Soft X-ray Spectrophotometer). Sphinx Data processing SW The purpose of software is to analyze and process incoming data dumps, downloaded from the Spacecraft operational center. The inputs for the processing are SphinX spectrometer science (X-ray) data and auxiliary data – housekeeping/technological data and S/C position/orientation data.
Additionally processed data will be accessible locally using the interactive visualization tool and remotely using web server (data catalogue and visualization) also developed by esc.
Expanding our Solar data processing capabilities
Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI, or more rarely Explorer 81) is the sixth mission in the line of NASA Small Explorer missions (also known as SMEX). Launched on 5 February 2002, its primary mission is to explore the basic physics of particle acceleration and explosive energy release in solar flares.
HESSI was renamed to RHESSI on March 29, 2002 in honor of Reuven Ramaty, a pioneer in the area of high energy solar physics – RHESSI is the first space mission named after a NASA scientist. RHESSI was designed and is operated at the Space Sciences Laboratory in Berkeley California.
RHESSI is designed to image solar flares in energetic photons from soft X rays (~3 keV) to gamma rays (up to ~20 MeV) and to provide high resolution spectroscopy up to gamma-ray energies of ~20 MeV. Furthermore, it has the capability to perform spatially resolved spectroscopy with high spectral resolution.