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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.
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