Click on images for more on Double Star (left) and Cassini-Huygens (right)
(Image courtesy CNSA/CSSAR) (Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Venus Express carrying ASPERA-4  launched successfully on 9 November. Venus arrival 11 April 2006.

Cassini-Huygens 1 July: a year in Saturn orbit! Huygens probe mission 14 January 2005, 13 other close satellite flybys this year (Titan, Enceladus, Hyperion, Dione, Rhea). We hosted the 30th CAPS team meeting on 20-22 April 2005.

The two Double Star spacecraft were successfully launched from China on 25 July 2004 and 29 December 2003. Our PEACE instruments are working well.

Our ongoing mission to Earth's magnetosphere, Cluster, has been performing science operations successfully on all four spacecraft since early 2001.

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.

Deep Impact launch 12 January, encounter 4 July. We led a series of collaborative telescope observations at the UK Schmidt telescope (Australia) and Isaac Newton telescope (La Palma) to look at production rate, composition and plasma effects of the impact.

Rosetta successfully launched 2 March 2004, reaches comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) Space Plasma and Planetary Physics 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 group have three principal scientific areas of study: magnetospheric physics, planetary physics and space weather studies.

In July and August 2000 we launched electron sensing instruments for which we are PI institute, (PEACE - Plasma Electron and Current Experiment), on each of the Cluster space quartet. They are now collecting excellent four-spacecraft data from Earth's magnetosphere. Cluster science operations have been ongoing since February 2001. We are also PI for electron (PEACE) instruments on both of the Chinese Double Star spacecraft, launched in December 2003 and July 2004.

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 isy satellites. Cassini is planned to orbit Saturn for four years until 2008.

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.

Additional current mission involvements include SMART-1, Polar (for which we contributed hardware), Geotail , Wind and Interball. Previous hardware missions include Meteosat 2, AMPTE, Giotto, CRRES, Pulsaur, Meteosat-3 and STRV 1a.

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 PhD opportunities for 2006

6 December, 2005
Andrew Coates