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No. 2 - First Double Star spacecraft declared ready for operations

No. 2 - First Double Star spacecraft declared ready for operations

The China-ESA Double Star project is designed to use two spacecraft to study the Earth's magnetosphere, in concert with ESA's four spacecraft Cluster mission. The Double Star spacecraft are known as TC-1 and TC-2, or translating to English, as Explorer-1 and Explorer-2.

Following its successful launch on 29 December 2003 and the commissioning of the spacecraft systems and the instruments, the first Double Star spacecraft (TC-1) was declared ready to start the nominal operation phase by the Commissioning Review Board. The Board, consisting of members from the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) and ESA, reviewed the performance of the spacecraft, instruments and ground segment of the Double Star mission during a meeting held at Villafranca (Spain) on 11 March 2004.

Spacecraft and Instrument Status

The spacecraft and instruments are working nominally and return data as expected in response to Observational Requests.

Both instruments working nominally.
Magnetic interferences originating from the spacecraft have been detected.
Accordingly, the magnetometer instrument teams will have to carry out extra calibration work and develop revised data processing software to produce high quality data despite these interferences.
Particle Detectors & Neutraliser
PEACE (electrons)
HIA (ions)
Both instruments working perfectly.
Measured 3 dimensional particle distribution functions every 4 seconds.
Keeps the spacecraft electrically grounded by emitting indium ions.
Working perfectly.
Enabling PEACE and HIA to make more accurate particle measurements at low energies.
High Energy Particle Detectors
All three instruments are working well.
Some saturation effects have been observed in regions of high particle fluxes.

Ground Segment

The ground segment, which includes the Chinese stations in Beijing and Shanghai and the ESA ground station at Villafranca, has been tested extensively and the downlink performances are better than expected. The three operation centres, the European Payload Operation System at RAL (UK), the Chinese Double Star Science Operation Centre and Double Star Operation and Management Centre are routinely operating both European and Chinese instruments. The European Data Disposition System at IWF (Austria) forwards raw data to the European users. Finally the Austrian, Chinese, French and United-Kingdom data centres have successfully exchanged and distributed preliminary science data.

Orbital Information

Double Star currently has its apogee in the solar wind. It typically crosses the magnetosphere, the magnetosheath (shocked solar wind) and the solar wind during a full orbit lasting 27 h.

Annotated orbital diagram for the Double Star spacecraft, spring 2004

The effect of ASPOC can clearly be observed in the electron spectrograms (bottom panel) in the diagram below.  When ASPOC is activated, between 19:00-00:00 UT and 14:00-19:00 UT, the PEACE sensor measures the full electron spectrum from the surrounding medium, while when ASPOC is off, 01:00-13:00, photoelectrons coming from the spacecraft dominate at low energy (below 10 eV, large red band at the bottom of the plot).

FGM data courtesy C. Carr, Imperial College, UK, ASPOC data courtesy K. Torkar, IWF, Austria, HIA data courtesy H. Reme, CESR, France and PEACE data courtesy A. Fazakerley, MSSL, UK. Click for larger image.

Data collected during one orbit of Double Star TC-1. From top to bottom: Magnetic field data from FGM, ASPOC data, ion speed from HIA and electron data from PEACE.

Science Results

Images courtesy, I. Dandouras, CESR, France and N. Cornilleau-Wehrlin, CETP, France. Click for larger image.

Ion data collected around the Earth bow shock on 25 Feb. 2004 and associated wave turbulence as seen by STAFF (constant frequency lines are interferences).

A very interesting event observed recently was a crossing of the bow shock observed on 25 February by the HIA instrument (ion sensor) and the STAFF instrument (magnetic fluctuations sensor). Due to its unique orbit, with an apogee around 13.5 Earth radii of geocentric distance, TC-1 at times skims along the bow shock. TC-1 therefore has a better chance to observe the bowshock for relatively long intervals than other spacecraft that have visited this region. On Figure 3, before 07:05 UT the spacecraft was in the magnetosheath, then between 07:05 and 07:13, the spacecraft was very close to the bow shock, and later between 07:13 and 07:17 it was in the solar wind. During this event, the ions show a clear energy increase with time, observed around 07:12 UT. These ions from the solar wind are thought to have been reflected at the bow shock so that they now partly move back toward the Sun and are accelerated by the shock in the process. This very clear energy dispersion should help us to find their origin and understand better the role of the bow shock in accelerating particles to high energies. The strong burst of low frequency waves that are simultaneously observed by the STAFF experiment might play a role in this process. Such new knowledge will have wide significance since similar processes are thought to energise particles in many astrophysical environments.

Future Activities

While nominal operations are starting for TC-1, the second spacecraft TC-2 is being made ready for a launch on 20 July 2004.

Contact Points

Philippe Escoubet
ESA Double Star Project Scientist (SCI-SH), ESTEC
Tel: +31-71-565-3454

Bodo Gramkow
ESA Double Star Payload Project Manager (SCI-PRD), ESTEC
Tel: +31-71-565-4564

Last Update: 1 September 2019
13-Jun-2024 19:20 UT

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