The Payload Instruments Section in the Advanced Payload and Missions Concept Office is in charge of the overall technical management of payload definition activities for early phase future missions, proposed for the Science programme, including the technical interface with instrument consortia. The Section also provides general payload expertise support to other ESA Directorates, as well as support for planning, monitoring and execution of technology development activities.
SCI-FMI has the following key tasks:
- Payload support to the Cosmic Vision missions in phase 0/A/B1.
- Definition of Strawman Payloads for internal and industrial studies. Managing the interfaces between the payloads provided by the Member States and the industrial studies during the Definition Phase.
- Definition of the corresponding Technology Development Plans.
- Development of specific related technologies required for future payloads, in close co-operation with the Technology Preparation Section (SCI-FT).
- Supporting Technology Reference Studies in preparation of Calls for Missions.
- Interface to external entities/international partners when relevant.
The Payload Instruments Section provides the pool of Payload Managers for the various mission studies, as well as Technical Officers for dedicated technology activities related to the Office’s tasks.
Supporting the Cosmic Vision Programme
The Section supports the technical and programmatic evaluation of Cosmic Vision proposals, submitted by the scientific community to ESA, including so far:
SCI-FMI is also responsible for the payload support during the assessment studies of numerous Cosmic Vision mission candidates, by providing the associated payload managers, including payloads such as:
- The X-IFU and WFI instruments on ATHENA, the Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (selected as the second large mission, L2), currently in Phase A. The ATHENA mission features an X-ray telescope with high resolution spectroscopy using a TES-based microcalorimeter operating at cryogenic temperatures, and a wide-field spectrally-resolved imaging instrument using APD Si-Detectors, significantly exceeding the performance of existing X-ray observatories.
- ARIEL payload (M4 candidate mission): The Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey features a 1m-class telescope, a Fine Guidance Sensor, and IR spectrometer from 2-8µm to characterise exoplanets.
- THOR payload (M4 candidate mission): THOR will explore plasma energization in space turbulence with a payload of 10 instruments to examine the plasma, electric and magnetic field properties of space.
- XIPE payload (M4 candidate mission): The X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer will be the very first mission to provide polarimetry in X-rays, using an X-ray telescope and X-ray polarimeters exploiting the Gas Pixel Detector design.
- SMILE payload (ESA-CAS joint mission): The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE) will complement all solar, solar wind and in situ magnetospheric observations, including both space- and ground-based observatories, to enable the first-ever observations of the full chain of events that drive space weather. The payload consists of a wide field Soft X-ray Imager (SXI), an auroral Ultra-Violet Imager (UVI), and an in situ measurement package, comprising a Light Ion Analyser (LIA) to measure solar wind ion distributions and a magnetometer (MAG) to measure interplanetary, magnetosheath, and outer magnetospheric magnetic fields.
Past studies supported
- MarcoPolo-R: A mission to return a pristine sample of material from a primitive near-Earth asteroid for detailed analysis in ground-based laboratories (M3 mission candidate).
- LOFT: The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (M3 mission candidate).
- EChO: The Exoplanet Characterization Observatory (M3 mission candidate).
- STE-QUEST: The Space-Time Explorer and QUantum Equivalence Principle Space Test (M3 mission candidate).
- PLATO: Planetary Transit and Oscillations of Stars (candidate mission for the M2 and M3 slots; selected for M3).
In addition, SCI-FMI supported internal Technology Reference Studies in preparation for future Cosmic Vision calls:
- NG-CryoIRTel (2014), New Generation Cryogenic InfraRed Telescope (2014), a cryogenically cooled 2m class IR-FIR telescope building on SPICA heritage.
- Clipper / Io or Europa Orbiter, or Europa Penetrator (2015).
- CMB Polarisation Mission (2016): A post-Planck mission concept providing a high sensitive survey of the microwave polarisation across the entire sky, for probing cosmic origins.
Supporting the Cosmic Vision Technology Development
The technical feasibility of these system studies is supported by a range of dedicated technology development activities, as defined in the Cosmic Vision development plan, covering the following domains (in close cooperation with the Payload Technology Validation Section (SCI-FV) and the Technology Preparation Section (SCI-FT)):
- Sampling tools/techniques on low-g bodies (e.g. asteroids) and Mars
- Other payload related technologies