Instruments Studies Section (SCI-FIS)
The Instruments Studies Section in the Instrumentation Division of the Future Missions Department is in charge of the overall technical management of payload definition activities for early phases of 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.
The Instruments Studies Section has a number of key tasks:
- Payload support to the Cosmic Vision missions in assessment phase
- Definition of Strawman Payloads for internal and industrial studies, and managing the interfaces between the payloads provided by the Member States and the industrial studies during the Definition Phase
- Support for the assessment of the system level performance (Satellite-Payload-Instrument)
- 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)
- Support Technology Reference Studies in preparation of Calls for Missions
- Interface to external entities/international partners when relevant
The Instruments Studies Section provides the Payload Managers for the mission studies, as well as Technical Officers for some technology activities related to the Office.
Supporting the Cosmic Vision Programme
The Instruments Studies Section performs the technical and programmatic evaluation of Cosmic Vision proposals, submitted by the scientific community to ESA. The following calls have been supported so far:
- Joint call for missions ESA - Chinese Academy of Science (January 2015) - SMILE
- Medium (M-class) missions calls
- Large (L-class) missions calls
- L2 – 2014: Call for mission concepts for the large-size 'L2' mission opportunity in ESA's Science Programme (theme: The Hot and Energetic Universe) – Athena
- L3 – 2016: Call for mission concepts for the Large-size ‘L3’ mission opportunity in ESA’s Science Programme (theme: The Gravitational Universe) – LISA
The Instruments Studies Section is also responsible for the payload support during the assessment studies of numerous Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 mission candidates, providing the associated Payload Managers. These payloads are:
- 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.
- The LISA Payload. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory and will start Phase A in 2018. The LISA mission consists of three spacecraft, each equipped with a Gravitational Reference Sensor (GRS) with an embedded free falling test mass. Laser interferometry between the 3 spacecraft, which are separated by about 2.5 million km, is then used to measure the variations between the test masses on each spacecraft
- ARIEL payload (M4 candidate mission): The Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey features a 1m class telescope, a Fine Guidance Sensor, and an infrared spectrometer, operating from 2 µm to 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 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. The in situ package comprises 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 (candidate M3 mission)
- LOFT: The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (candidate M3 mission)
- EChO: The Exoplanet Characterization Observatory (candidate M3 mission)
- STE-QUEST: The Space-Time Explorer and QUantum Equivalence Principle Space Test (candidate M3 mission)
- PLATO: Planetary Transit and Oscillations of Stars (candidate mission for the M2 and M3 slots; adopted for M3)
In addition, the Instruments Studies Section supported internal Technology Reference Studies in preparation for previous Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 calls:
- NG-CryoIRTel, 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)
Supporting the Cosmic Vision Technology Programme
The technical feasibility of these system studies is supported by a range of dedicated technology development activities, as stipulated in the Cosmic Vision and MREP technology development plans, covering the following domains (in close cooperation with the Instruments Studies Section (SRE-FIS) and the Technology Preparation Section (SRE-FT)):
- Sampling tools/techniques on low-g bodies (e.g. asteroids) and Mars
- Other payload related technologies