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Techniques et missions spatiales



Artist's impression of the BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter in orbit around Mercury. Copyright : ESA

The BepiColombo mission is a joint ESA/JAXA Mercury exploration mission. The mission consists in two platforms, Mercury Planetary Orbiter (DFO) and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). It will be launched in October 2018 and will arrive around Mercury at the end of 2024.

Objectives : Exploration of Mercury's magnetosphere and solar wind at 0.3 astronomical units

Research Group : PEPS

  • Scientific Responsible : Nicolas André
  • Technical Manager : Nicolas André


The MSL mission (Mars Science Laboratory) of the U.S. space agency (NASA), is a mobile robot to explore the Martian surface. This machine, three times heavier than its predecessors, is designed as a laboratory to analyze precisely the Martian rocks. Of the 10 instruments on board, the IRAP contributes greatly to the instrument ChemCam (elemental analysis of rocks up to 10m), and France is also involved in SAM (mineral and atmospheric analysis).

Onboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, the ChemCam instrument will help us understand whether rocks and soils on Mars have been altered by water and contain chemicals necessary for life.

IRAP Responsible : Sylvestre Maurice


Mars Rover Curiosity in Artist's Concept



The Cluster constellation

The four CLUSTER satellites were launched in July and August 2000 by two Soyuz launchers for a two years mission. The mission was granted an extension of three extra years operation in early 2002, then four more years in 2005. The mission was forseen to be ended in 2009. On October 2 2009, ESA's Science Programme Committee approuved the extension of CLUSTER mission operations until December 31 2012. On November 19 2010, ESA's Science Programme Committee approuved the extension of CLUSTER mission operations until December 31 2014, extension subjected to a mid-term review in 2012.

The ESA CLUSTER mission studies the interactions between the solar wind and the terrestrial magnetosphere.

IRAP Responsible : I. Dandouras


Project in operation

  • Scientific leads: J.-A. Sauvaud and B. Lavraud
  • Technical leads: C. Aoustin, A. Fedorov
  • Other involved scientists: A. Opitz, B. Lavraud, P. Louarn, J. Dandouras, C. Jacquey, V. Génot, G. Fruit



JEM-EUSO Telescope

JEM-EUSO will locate for the first time sources of cosmic rays and will mark the historic opening of non-photonic astronomy, based upon the study of charged particles. The main scientific questions to which JEM-EUSO will have to answer are : what are the sources able to accelerate the very energetic RCUEs particles (beyond 1020 eV) ? What is the acceleration mechanism ? Is there a link between the RCUEs sources and other sources already known in the Universe ? Can we use the RCUEs as messengers to probe the cosmos ?

JEM-EUSO aims at observing giant air showers induced in the Earth's atmosphere by cosmic ultra-energetic rays (RCUE).

IRAP Responsible : Peter von Balmoos



Launched in november 2013 from the Kennedy Space Center, the MAVEN Mission (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) aims to study the Martian upper atmosphere and ionosphere, as well as their interactions with the solar wind.

MAVEN : Understanding Mars' climate history

IRAP Responsible : Christian Mazelle


The Nuclear Compton Telescope (NCT) is an R&D project funded by NASA, its goal is to develop a high-resolution Compton telescope for nuclear astrophysics. The PI institute of NCT is the Space Science Laboratory (University of California Berkeley). NCT is designed to study astrophysical sources of gamma-ray emission in the 200 keV - 10 MeV energy range, with high spectral resolution (E/∆E 500), moderate angular resolution (2 degrees), and sensitivity to gamma-ray polarization.

The last long duration balloon flight was planned in 2008-2009. The heart of NCT is an array of cross-strip germanium detectors with full 3D position localization of photon interactions (resolution < 2 mm3). These detectors were surrounded by an anticoincidence shield made of bismuth germanate (BGO) and an active collimator made of cesium iodine (CsI). The NCT’s team in IRAP was in charge of providing the CsI collimator and the BGO shield electronics.



PILOT (Polarized Instrument for Long wavelength Observation of the Tenuous interstellar medium) is an astrophysical experiment of 1,100 kg on board at 40 km altitude in an 800,000 m3 stratospheric balloon to measure the polarized emission of dust grains from the interstellar medium. The CNES is responsible for the mission, launching and founds the project (2.9ME for CNES/IRAP conventions; consolidated cost CNES/CNRS/CEA of 20ME).
The purpose of the experiment is to measure the polarization of the thermal emission of dust grains present in the interstellar medium at a wavelength of 240 microns. This measurement is complementary to those of the Planck satellite at longer wavelengths. It will allow the geometry measurement of the magnetic field that surrounds the interstellar medium and plays a fundamental role in the formation of structures in general and stars in particular. It will also bring unique constraints on dust physics. Finally, it will better constrain the dependence of polarized emission on wavelength, which is critical for the fine analysis of cosmological data concerning the polarization of the microwave background.

Research Group :  MICMAC

  • Scientific Responsible : J-Ph. Bernard
  • Technical Manager : B. Mot



Artist impression of ESA's Rosetta spacecraft around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in 3D. The image can be viewed using stereoscopic glasses with red–green or red–blue filters. Copyright ESA / C. Carreau

Since its launch in 2004, the Rosetta probe has crossed the paths of the asteroids Steins and Lutetia. However, its main objective is to study the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This meeting will take place in 2014 : as early as August, a complete mapping of the comet 67P will be realized. On November 11, the lander Philae will land on the surface of the comet and pierce several holes to study its internal composition. This mission will last only a few days. The orbiter will accompany the comet in its course towards the Sun. The onboard instruments will perform analysis of the composition of its coma and its hair.

Rendez-vous with comet 67P/Churyumov-GerasimenkoS

Scientific Responsible : C. Mazelle



Copyright: ESA/AOES

Solar Orbiter is ESA's M1 mission, scheduled for launch in 2020. It will approach 0.28 u.a. of the sun (closer than Mercury), and includes a payload of instruments dedicated to both remote observation of the solar surface and analysis of solar wind particles and waves. It is a joint/complementary part of the Solar Probe mission. Its particular orbit (approach/remoteness of the sun) poses major thermal challenges. In addition, it is expected to have no radio links for dozens of days (the probe will pass behind the sun). Operating autonomy is another difficulty of this mission.

Objective : Study of solar activity, with the specific aspect of the "connection": how can we link the structures seen on the solar surface, often of magnetic origin, and their dynamics to local changes in the properties of the solar wind. Also concerns the fields of space weather. Issues of crown heating, particle acceleration, shock propagation and CME.

Research Group : PEPS

  • Scientific Responsible : Ph. Louarn
  • Technical Manager : A. Fedorov
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