UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory secures industry contracts worth €6 million

The UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) has secured contracts to supply equipment for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and to test equipment for the European Space Agency’s Gaia star-mapping mission.

For the JWST mission, MSSL is already providing Astrium Germany with the onboard calibration system for the Near Infra-red Spectrometer, and its latest orders are for two different sets of ground calibration equipment for the same instrument.

MSSL will also be working with Astrium France to test the 174 sets of electronics and special Charge Coupled Device detectors for the Gaia mission, bringing the total of MSSL's current orders for the two missions to over €6M.

The laboratory has been working closely with the European Space Agency  (ESA) and European space industry to develop critical parts of instruments for JWST and Gaia. The successful bids follow several years of technology studies, funded by ESA contracts and the UK’s Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).

Most instruments for scientific satellites are built by university-based space science groups,such as MSSL, but the instruments of the future will be highly integrated with the satellites themselves. This has resulted in space science groups turning to direct collaboration with the industry prime contractors, providing cutting-edge scientific and technological expertise to ensure these expensive and groundbreaking missions achieve their scientific goals.

The JWST will be the successor to the well-known Hubble Space Telescope, but larger and much more capable. Built by NASA with significant ESA participation, JWST will reveal the secrets of a very young universe, when stars and galaxies were first forming. It is NASA’s major new science initiative, with a cost exceeding $3 billion.

James Webb Space Telescope (image: ESA)

“This is an outstanding example of knowledge transfer,” said Professor Mark Cropper (UCL MSSL). “The university-based space science groups have amassed a huge amount of expertise in wringing the best performance from their instruments in space, and they are familiar with the latest developments in engineering and detector technology. Working closely with industry is a win-win situation, ensuring future satellites produce the best science possible, and knowledge and expertise is transferred between academia and industry.”

Gaia (image: ESA)

Gaia is ESA’s 6th Cornerstone Mission, and will examine the Milky Way in unprecedented detail, in order  to understand how it formed and has evolved to its current state. Gaia will produce catalogues of the positions, movements and properties of more than a billion stars, and discover thousands of new planetary systems and objects in our own solar system.

Gaia is due for launch in 2011, while JWST will be launched in 2013. Professor Cropper said “It is a great pleasure for MSSL to be so deeply involved with these front-ranking space projects. It will grow our technological expertise and open up new opportunities and directions for UK scientific research.”

Notes to editors:

The UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory is the UK's largest university space research group. Space science is a discipline that demands highly innovative technologies and MSSL has an international reputation for excellence in this area.

MSSL is UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics. UCL was one of the first universities in the world to become involved in making scientific observations in space. Since MSSL was established in 1966, it has participated in over 35 satellite missions and over 200 rocket experiments. It has a unique capability of designing, building and testing instruments and other spacecraft systems on site.

Science activities are not restricted to producing instruments. MSSL scientists regularly use other facilities both space-borne and ground-based in order to address the science question at hand. MSSL’s research groups are supported by specialist engineers and a broad technology base. Courses are provided on space-science related topics, systems engineering, technology management and project management.


Further information on  JWST:



Further information on Gaia:





Professor Mark Cropper

UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory,  Holmbury St Mary, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6NT.

01483-204155, msc@mssl.ucl.ac.uk

Dr Richard Cole

UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory,  Holmbury St Mary, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6NT.

01483-204229, richard.cole@mssl.ucl.ac.uk




This page last modified 14 October, 2005 by Martin de la Nougerede


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