The Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction Cubesat Experiment (CIRCE) is a joint US/UK mission consisting of two 6U CubeSats actively maintaining a lead-follow configuration in the same low Earth orbit with a launch planned for the 2020 timeframe. These nanosatellites will each feature multiple space weather payloads. From the US, the Naval Research Laboratory will provide two 1U Triple Tiny Ionospheric Photometers (Tri-TIPs) on each satellite, observing the ultraviolet 135.6 nm emission of atomic oxygen at nighttime. The primary objective is to characterize the twodimensional distribution of electrons in the Equatorial Ionization Anomaly (EIA). The methodology used to reconstruct the nighttime ionosphere employs continuous UV photometry from four distinct viewing angles in combination with an additional data source, such as in situ plasma density measurements, with advanced image space reconstruction algorithm tomography techniques. From the UK, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is providing the In-situ and Remote Ionospheric Sensing suite consisting of an Ion/Neutral Mass Spectrometer, a triple-frequency GPS receiver for ionospheric sensing, and a radiation environment monitor. We present our mission concept, simulations illustrating the imaging capability of the Tri-TIP sensor suite, and a range of science questions addressable via these measurements.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) is a mission concept which was proposed to ESA as M3 and M4 candidate in the framework of the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument and the uniquely large field of view of its wide field monitor, LOFT will be able to study the behaviour of matter in extreme conditions such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions close to black holes and neutron stars and the supra-nuclear densities in the interiors of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, >8m2 effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1 degree collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g., GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the current technical and programmatic status of the mission.
The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE) is a collaborative science mission between ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). SMILE is a novel self-standing mission to observe the coupling of the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere via X-Ray imaging of the solar wind -- magnetosphere interaction zones, UV imaging of global auroral distributions and simultaneous in-situ solar wind, magnetosheath plasma and magnetic field measurements. The SMILE mission proposal was submitted by a consortium of European, Chinese and Canadian scientists following a joint call for mission by ESA and CAS. It was formally selected by ESA's Science Programme Committee (SPC) as an element of the ESA Science Program in November 2015, with the goal of a launch at the end of 2021.
In order to achieve its scientific objectives, the SMILE payload will comprise four instruments: the Soft X-ray Imager (SXI), which will spectrally map the Earth's magnetopause, magnetosheath and magnetospheric cusps; the UltraViolet Imager (UVI), dedicated to imaging the auroral regions; the Light Ion Analyser (LIA) and the MAGnetometer (MAG), which will establish the solar wind properties simultaneously with the imaging instruments. We report on the status of the mission and payload developments and the findings of a design study carried out in parallel at the concurrent design facilities (CDF) of ESA and CAS in October/November 2015.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) was studied within ESA M3 Cosmic Vision framework and participated in the final downselection for a launch slot in 2022-2024. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument, LOFT will study the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions, such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions of accretion flows close to black holes and neutron stars, and the supranuclear densities in the interior of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, 10 m2 effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1° collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g. GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the status of the mission at the end of its Phase A study.
The LOFT mission concept is one of four candidates selected by ESA for the M3 launch opportunity as Medium Size missions of the Cosmic Vision programme. The launch window is currently planned for between 2022 and 2024. LOFT is designed to exploit the diagnostics of rapid X-ray flux and spectral variability that directly probe the motion of matter down to distances very close to black holes and neutron stars, as well as the physical state of ultradense matter. These primary science goals will be addressed by a payload composed of a Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM). The LAD is a collimated (<1 degree field of view) experiment operating in the energy range 2-50 keV, with a 10 m2 peak effective area and an energy resolution of 260 eV at 6 keV. The WFM will operate in the same energy range as the LAD, enabling simultaneous monitoring of a few-steradian wide field of view, with an angular resolution of <5 arcmin. The LAD and WFM experiments will allow us to investigate variability from submillisecond QPO’s to yearlong transient outbursts. In this paper we report the current status of the project.
In-situ instrumentation for proposed future solar and heliophysics missions close to the sun, e.g., ESA's Solar Orbiter
and NASA's Solar Sentinels, have challenging requirements. Notably, the two major challenges are the large dynamic
range required to be covered and the mission lifetime. For example, the proposed orbit of Solar Orbiter ranges from 0.22
AU to 1.39 AU, resulting in up to 2 orders of magnitude change in flux that the instrument is required to handle, with a
proposed mission life of greater than 10 years. We present details of a prototype instrument that is currently being
developed to address some of these challenges. The instrument is a conventional "top-hat" type symmetric quadrispheric
analyzer with a pair of electrostatic deflector plates designed to accept approximately ± 40° in elevation. Optimization of
the geometry of the deflector plates will be discussed and preliminary results of the performance of the instrument will
be presented. In addition, some of the other techniques and strategies that will be required to deliver the necessary
performance will also be discussed.
The Cluster mission comprises four 'identical' satellites devoted to the study of the Earth's magnetosphere. For accurate differential measurements, it is important to maintain a precise understanding of instrument performance. Hence, for Cluster and future multi-spacecraft missions, an effective method of in-orbit monitoring and optimisation of detector behaviour is essential. This is particularly challenging in the case of microchannel plates (MCPs), especially in the situation where, because of lifetime considerations, no scrubbing of the plates was performed prior to launch. This paper explores just this problem in the case of the Cluster-PEACE sensors where the problem is made yet more difficult since mass and power constraints severely limited the amount of diagnostic data available from the instrument - in particular, no pulse height information is directly available. We describe here a technique that lets us evaluate the degradation of the MCPs in space and optimise the operation of the instrument to provide consistent performance. Utilising data from the two sensors on each satellite from various regions of space and coupling with ground characterisation/calibration data, normalised pulse height distributions are indirectly extracted. Although the general behaviour is as expected, the performance shows considerable differences between the different sensors. The results also differ considerably in detail from lifetime tests carried out with a representative MCP on the ground.