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PRODEX Achievements

PRODEX in 2010

During 2010, the PRODEX office supported activities that accomplished six major project reviews and the completion of nine items of hardware. Five PRODEX-supported experiments were flown and, in addition, PRODEX supported the mission operations for a microsatellite carrying two of these experiments.

Major Project Reviews



BepiColumbo Laser Altimeter (BELA).
Credit: Nicolas Thomas, University of Bern.

BELA (BEpiColombo Laser Altimeter) is one of the instruments that will fly on the BepiColumbo Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) – part of an ESA mission being prepared in cooperation with Japan ­– which is scheduled to launch in 2014. The following instrument subsystem reviews were conducted:

  • Analogue Electronics Unit (AEU), Back-End Optics (BEO) and Avalanche Photodiodes (APD) – Critical Design Review (CDR)
  • AEU, Rangefinder Electronics Module (RFM) – Technology Readiness Review (TRR)

Co-Principal Investigator Nicolas Thomas (University of Bern, Switzerland) is funded by PRODEX.; the other Co-Principal Investigator is Tilman Spohn (DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, Germany).



PADIAC hardware
Credit: ETHZ Space Biology Group

PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent ACtivators) is designed to improve knowledge of the immune system by studying T-cell (mature white blood cells from the thymus) activation in microgravity. The experiment completed its Flight Acceptance Review (FAR). Principal Investigator: Isabelle Walther, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich; ETHZ).

MIRI IOC, the Input Optics and Calibration (IOC) system for the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) that will fly on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) completed the Qualification Review (QR) and Delivery Review Board (DRB) for the Proto-Flight Model (PFM) hardware. Developer: Centre Spatial de Liège, Belgium.

APEX (Airborne Prism EXperiment) is an airborne dispersive push-broom imaging spectrometer developed by a Swiss-Belgian consortium on behalf of ESA. It is intended as a simulator and a calibration and validation device for future orbiting hyperspectral imagers. The experiment completed its Flight Readiness Review and its Acceptance Flight. Principal Investigator: Michael Schaepman, Remote Sensing Laboratories, University of Zurich.

EDI (Electron Drift Instrument) will measure electric and magnetic fields by emitting electrons and measuring their drift velocity. An EDI will fly on each of the four spacecraft that will make up the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS), a solar-terrestrial probe mission under development at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. MMS will use the Earth’s magnetosphere as a laboratory to study the microphysics of three fundamental plasma processes – magnetic reconnection (the fundamental mechanism by which magnetic energy is dissipated), energetic particle acceleration and turbulence. The EDI electronics completed both its TRR and its CRR, while the instrument successfully completed its CDR. Developer: Institute for Space Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences.

ASPOC (Active Spacecraft POtential Control) devices will also fly on each of the four MMS spacecraft. ASPOC is a system to neutralise the electrical potential of the spacecraft, allowing measurement of low-energy ions and electrons by the plasma instruments and eliminating spurious electric fields that can contaminate double-probe measurements. The ASPOC electronics completed both its TRR and its CRR, while the instrument successfully completed its CDR. Developer: Institute for Space Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Hardware Completed



HARPS-N vacuum chamber. Credit: APCO Technologies

HARPS-N (High Accuracy Radial-Velocity Planetary Search – North) is a high-precision spectrograph, equivalent to the existing HARPS on the 3.6-metre ESO telescope in Chile. It will operate in the northern hemisphere at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, located at the Spanish Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, to allow for synergy with NASA’s Kepler mission. The final models of the vacuum system (APCO Technologies, Switzerland) and objective (FISBA, Switzerland) were completed.

MIPA (Miniature Ion Precipitation Analyser) is part of the ‘Search for Exospheric Refilling and Emitted Natural Abundances’ (SERENA) instrument package that will fly on the BepiColumbo MPO. Various elements of the Engineering Qualification Model (EQM), the Flight Model and the Flight Spare hardware (University of Berne, Switzerland) were completed.

The Flight Model (FM) of PADIAC, the PFM of MIRI IOC and the Qualification Models of the EDI and ASPOC electronics (see Major Project Reviews, above) were also completed.

Experiments Flown

PREMOS-2 (PREcision MOnitor Sensor) is a set of three photometers to study ozone formation and destruction and to perform helioseismological observations, and an absolute differential radiometer to measure total solar irradiance. This instrument was launched as part of the Picard mission on 15 June 2010. Principal Investigator: Werner Schmutz, Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos (PMOD), Switzerland.

SOVAP (SOlar Variability Picard radiometer) is a suite of two instruments also embarked on the Picard microsatellite; the first is DIARAD (DIfferential Absolute RADiometer), which measures total solar irradiance. The second instrument is BOS (BOlometric Sensor), which studies variations in the total solar irradiance with a measurement every 10 seconds, while DIARAD performs an absolute measurement every three minutes. The two measurements combined enable measurement of total solar irradiance with improved temporal resolution. Principal Investigator: Steven Dewitte, Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (RMIB).

Picard Operations – PRODEX is supporting the operational phase of the Picard microsatellite through B.USOC, the Belgian User Support and Operation Centre, located at the Institute for Space Aeronomy in Brussels.

IMPRESS (Intermetallic Materials Processing in Relation to Earth and Space Solidification) is a pan-European flagship project in the field of applied material science, studying the solidification process in intermetallic alloys. An IMPRESS experiment flew on board ESA’s Maxus8 rocket, which lifted off from the Esrange Space Centre at Kiruna, in Sweden, on 26 March 2010. Principal Investigators: David Browne and Shaun McFadden, University College, Dublin, Ireland.

The SoDiUM (Soret and Diffusion Coefficients in Crude Oils Under Microgravity) experiment was performed in the Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument (SODI) on board the International Space Station (ISS). Principal Investigator: Stefan Van Vaerenbergh, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium.

PADIAC (see Major Project Reviews, above) was carried to the ISS aboard Soyuz flight 24S on 8 October 2010.

Last Update: 18 March 2011

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