Water and dust plumes emanating from the "tiger stripes" on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Adapted from Coates (2012). Courtesy: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Water and dust plumes emanating from the "tiger stripes" on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Adapted from Coates (2012). Courtesy: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics, (Mullard Space Science Laboratory - MSSL), is a world-leading research organisation and is the UK's largest university-based space research group.

MSSL delivers a broad, cutting-edge science programme, underpinned by a strong capability in space science instrumentation, space-domain engineering, space medicine, systems engineering and project management. 

Our scientific research ranges from cosmology and the study of extra-galactic objects, to studies of the Sun, the planets and their moons, the Earth, and humans working and living in space. We also research and develop the next generation of space instrumentation. Our research is supported through UK research councils, the UK Space Agency, European and other grants and contracts.

Lecture theatre at UCL
Lecture theatre at UCL


As a department of UCL, members of staff are actively involved in teaching both undergraduates and post-graduates. Our post-graduate education programme consists of taught courses, leading to an M.Sc., and research degrees, leading to an M.Phil or Ph.D.

Students studying at MSSL become active members of their research groups and wider research communities. Research projects in our taught courses give students the opportunity to be involved in the development of new space hardware and future missions. 

The research undertaken at MSSL drives an active outreach programme. Scientists and engineers are happy to talk about their work and run activities for groups of all ages and interests.

Artist's impression of the ExoMars rover. Image: ESA
Artist's impression of the ExoMars rover. Image: ESA


MSSL has a long heritage of providing high-quality space instrumentation for international space research missions. In our >40 year history we have been involved in more than 35 scientific space missions and over 200 rocket launches.

MSSL develops and tests hardware and software, usually as part of an international consortium. Our engineers work along side scientists to ensure that the instruments we produce optimally address key questions in modern space science. Post-launch support that is linked to pre-flight and flight calibrations enables scientists to understand the responses of the instrument, greatly benefitting the analysis of the data.

Engineers and project support staff make up around half the staff and students at MSSL.

UV inspection for contamination on flight hardware
UV inspection for contamination on flight hardware


As a builder of scientific instruments, MSSL has developed expertise and facilities for manufacturing and testing of space hardware. We make these facilities and expertise available for industrial contracts. 

Through UCL Centre for Systems Engineering (UCLse), we offer a range of industrial training courses in areas including systems engineering, project management, risk management and system design, and conduct consultancy projects for industry in systems engineering and technology management.

Mullard Space Science Laboratory with Comet Hale-Bopp
Mullard Space Science Laboratory with Comet Hale-Bopp


UCL was one of the first universities in the world to become involved in making scientific observations in space. Since MSSL was established in 1966, we have participated in more than 35 satellite missions and over 200 rocket experiments.

Our groups of research scientists and development engineers work together to ensure that the instruments we produce are as relevant and competitive as possible. The subsequent data analysis and scientific interpretation of data benefits from the fundamental understanding of the instruments gained from their development and testing.

MSSL and its location have a rich heritage that can be explored further on this site.

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Prof. Mark Cropper

Prof. Mark Cropper awarded RAS 2018 Service Award for Astronomy

MSSL's Professor Mark Cropper was one of two UCL astrophysicists to receive prestigious Royal Astronomical Society awards this year. More...

Published: Jan 15, 2018 9:18:31 AM

A ‘radio colour’ view of the sky above a ‘tile’ of the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, located in outback Western Australia. The Milky Way is visible as a band across the sky and the dots beyond are some of the 300,000 galaxies observed by the telescope for the GLEAM survey. Red indicates the lowest frequencies, green the middle frequencies and blue the highest frequencies. Credit: Radio image by Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape by Dr John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

CSIRO and ICARA (Curtin University) in Australia collaborate with UCL’s CDT to develop next-generation data science techniques for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Luke Pratley from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) has been awarded £10,000 from STFC to visit CSIRO and ICARA (Curtin University) in Perth, Australia, to apply new data science techniques from the framework of compressive sensing for imaging observations made by the Murchison Wide-Field Array (MWA) – a radio telescope attempting to detect the first stars forming in the Universe. New imaging algorithms that have been developed at UCL by Luke Pratley and Jason McEwen have been shown to work very well on real observations from existing radio interferometric telescopes, including the VLA and ATCA.  In collaboration with UCL’s Research Software Development Group these algorithms have  been distributed and multi-threaded, so they can cope with the large data rates from the MWA. This will pave the way for applying new data science techniques for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be the world’s largest radio telescope, with higher resolution and sensitivity than ever before. More...

Published: Dec 12, 2017 10:21:54 AM

Prof. Louise Harra

Prof. Louise Harra to give 2018 Robinson Lecture at Armagh Observatory

MSSL's Prof. Louise Harra will be giving the prestigious 2018 Robinson Lecture for the Armagh Observatory. Louise, who is co-PI of the Extreme-UV Imager for the Solar Orbiter mission, will be talking about Solar Orbiter, its mission goals, how we will get there, and why we are doing it.  More...

Published: Nov 16, 2017 5:22:58 PM

MSSL Alumni Chris Rapley, John Zarnecki and Ken Pounds with former director Alan Smith at the launch of the Skylark exhibit

MSSL Alumni Celebrate 60 years of Skylark

MSSL Alumni Chris Rapley, John Zarnecki and Ken Pounds came together with former director Alan Smith to celebrate 60 years since the start of the UK's Skylark rocket programme at a new exhibit at the Science Museum. The Skylark programme signalled the start of the British space age. All four worked on numerous experiments launched on Skylark rockets during their times at MSSL. More...

Published: Nov 14, 2017 10:51:28 PM

Inspection of one of the tracker modules at UCL MSSL by members of the UCL team

Probing the nature of the neutrino using SuperNEMO

One mile beneath a mountain in the French Alps, an international team involving UCL scientists is hoping to unlock more secrets of the mysterious neutrino using a new, cutting-edge experiment called SuperNEMO. More...

Published: Nov 10, 2017 10:59:58 AM

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