MSSL student experiment successfully launched on European rocket

7 May 2013

PoleCATS team members preparing the instrument for launch on the REXUS 14 rocket

Students from MSSL have created an experiment team and built a sounding rocket payload which flew to around 81.6 km altitude at 5.00am BST on Tuesday morning from Esrange in northern Sweden.

The PoleCATS team is a distributed team of undergraduate and postgraduate scientists and engineers from around the UK and beyond which has produced a design for a highly-miniaturised electron spectrometer instrument.  The design is built around CATS - the Conceptual And Tiny Spectrometer - which has been developed at MSSL by former student Robert Bedington - and a specialised CCD which can detect electrons once they have been pre-selected by energy.

The REXUS programme gives students the chance to design and fly an experiment on a sounding rocket launched from ESRANGE in Kiruna. These rockets carry their payload up to 100 km above northern Scandinavia.  

Seven team members have travelled to Kiruna in the Arctic circle for the first two weeks of May to support the final integration and launch, including Arrow Lee, Hubert Hu, Matt Hills and former student Robert Bedington from MSSL.  After a few initial problems and long days, the integration and simulations were successful and the Flight Readiness Review passed on the 4th May.

The launch was a success; the downlinked trajectory and housekeeping data appear to be as expected; as of Tuesday morning, the sensor data has not been recovered from the module's SD cards, but should be returned by helicopter to the team very soon.

Several members of staff at MSSL were also key to the success of the team; especially the team's mentor Alan Smith and the CATS supervisor Dhiren Kataria - and the many others who offered useful information and advice.

The team's next challenge is to work towards data analysis and the publication of results.

MSSL extends it's congratulations to the PoleCATS team and trusts that its members will have gained a valuable and unforgettable experience from their first space mission.

A video of the launch is available of YouTube (courtesy of the MUSCAT Experiment Team).

For more details, contact Miss Arrow Lee (arrow.lee.10[a t]ucl.ac.uk)

Page last modified on 07 may 13 09:11