MSSL Planetary Science Group

Venus Express carrying ASPERA-4  launched successfully on 9 November. On 7 May 2006, Venus Express entered its planned orbit. The nominal science phase began in June 2006 and ASPERA-4 is performing extremely well.

Cassini-Huygens arrived at Saturn in 2004 and is continuing its highly successful exploration of the planet, its magnetsophere, rings, and moons.

Mars Express (we are on ASPERA team measuring water loss from Mars) and Beagle 2 (with 'eyes' from a team led by MSSL-UCL) reached Mars on 25 December 2003. Mars Express is now in polar Mars orbit and ASPERA is working well.

Micro Penetrators We are developing penetrators for lunar and planetary applications.

Rosetta successfully launched 2 March 2004, successfully passed Mars on 25 February 2007, asteroid Steins in September 2008, asteroid Lutetia in July 2010, and reaches comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) Planetary Science Group produce instrumentation for, and analyse data from, international space exploration missions. The scientific aim of the work is to explore how the solar wind interacts with planets and comets throughout the solar system. Our space hardware speciality is to measure electrons and ions in space plasmas. We are also leading studies of the Martian surface and atmosphere, and are starting work on the solar wind interaction with the Venus atmosphere.

The principal scientific area of study of the group is planetary science

Cassini-Huygens carried our electron instrument, for which we are lead Co-I, (CAPS-ELS, Cassini Plasma Spectrometer-Electron Spectrometer) past Earth in August 1999 and Jupiter in December 2000 on its way to Saturn. At Earth, we took a 'snapshot' of the Earth's magnetosphere during this very fast flyby, while at Jupiter we gathered some exciting data on Jupiter's plasma environment and the causes of Jupiter's aurora. We measured the solar wind between Jupiter and Saturn, and since 1 July 2004 Cassini-Huygens has been in Saturn orbit. Already we have excellent data on Saturn's magnetosphere including plasma near the rings and interaction with Titan and with the icy satellites. Cassini is planned to orbit Saturn for four years until 2008 and an extended mission is likely.

We were lead investigator institute for the stereoscopic cameras for Beagle 2. Beagle 2 was launched in June 2003 and reached Mars in December 2003. Following the successful miniaturisation of the multi-filter camera system by our consortium, we are now proposing similar systems for future missions, including ExoMars.

We provided UV rejection and calibration technology for the electron instrument for ASPERA-3 on the Mars Express orbiter, for which we are Co-I. Mars Express was launched in June 2003 and entered Mars orbit December 2003. We also calibrated, blackened and provided a radiation shield for the electron instrument for Venus Express ASPERA-4, launched in November 2005, again we are Co-I. We also lead the science team and coordinate comet phase science operations for the Rosetta Plasma Consortium.

Previous hardware missions include the Giotto mission to comets Halley and Grigg-Skjellerup.

The datasets from our missions are available for collaborative research projects. We welcome and invite any enquiries, and will attempt to support any requests as best we can.

See here for PhD opportunities.

January 2011
Geraint Jones
ghj [at] mssl.ucl.ac.uk

Mullard Space Science Laboratory - Holmbury St. Mary - Dorking - Surrey - RH5 6NT - Telephone: +44 (0)1483 204100 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

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