The Venus Express payload comprises a combination of spectrometers, spectro-imagers and imagers covering a wavelength range from ultraviolet to thermal infrared, a plasma analyser and a magnetometer. This set of instruments is able to study the atmosphere, plasma environment and surface of Venus in great detail.
The investigation aims to enhance our knowledge of the composition, circulation and evolution of the atmosphere of Venus. The surface properties of Venus and the interaction between the atmosphere and the surface are examined and evidence of volcanic activity is sought.
Most of the instruments are re-using designs and/or spare hardware originating from either Mars Express or Rosetta and have been fitted onto a spacecraft whose design is derived from Mars Express and adapted to cope with the thermal and radiation environment in Venus orbit. The nominal Venus Express mission (500 Earth days, or about two Venus sidereal days, following orbit insertion on 11 April 2006) has been extended several times, which has pushed back the mission end date to 31 December 2014 (subject to a mid-term review in 2012). By end 2012 Venus Express observations will have been performed for ten Venus sidereal days.
The instruments were provided by collaborative efforts between scientific institutes in ESA member states and Russia. Principal investigators in different European countries lead the nationally funded collaborations.