Space Plasma Missions

The Space Plasma Physics group at MSSL has a long history of involvement in space missions making in-situ observations of our magnetosphere and the near-Earth space environment. Our instrument speciality is in particle detectors, most recently electrostatic analysers for studying electrons up to energies of around 30 keV.

Artist's impression of Cluster II. Image courtesy: ESA

Cluster II

Cluster is ESA's quartet of magnetospheric spacecraft. MSSL built and operates the PEACE instruments on Cluster, examining the electron plasma around the Earth and in the solar wind.

Artist's impression of Double Star. (c) ESA

Double Star

Double Star is a joint ESA/Chinese dual-spacecraft mission to study the magnetosphere, complimenting the Cluster II mission. MSSL provided the PEACE instruments on Double Star.

Artist's impression of Solar Orbiter. (c) ESA

Solar Orbiter

Solar Orbiter is a proposed mission to examine the Sun and the solar wind. It will orbit the Sun between 0.29 and 1.2 AU. The Space Plasma Physics Group at MSSL is head of the Solar Wind Analyser instrument consortium.

We are also have involvement in, Wind, Geotail and e-POP

Future Missions

The Space Plasma Group was a lead on the proposals for ALFVEN/MICE and IMPALAS that were submitted to the ESA M3 Missions Call and the ALFVEN+ proposal that was submitted to the ESA M4 Missions Call. We supported the proposals for Kua-Fu, EidoSCOPE, AXIOM, NITRO and Uranus Pathfinder. We are also a lead on the BEADS proposal for the ESA-CAS Small Missions Call.

Artist's impression of the BEADS spacecraft. (c) UCL/MSSL


BEADS is a proposed joint ESA - CAS mission to study the physical processes around substorm onset. This dual spacecraft mission with examine changes in the aurora and plasma at the moment of substorm onset.

Artist's impression of the Alfven+ spacecraft. (c) University of Lancaster & UCL-MSSL


Alfven+ is a mission proposed to the ESA M4 Call under their Cosmic Visions programme. Alfven+ is a dual spacecraft mission designed to study the processes associated with the acceleration of particles above the aurora.

Previous Missions

The Space Plasma Physics group has a strong heritage in mission hardware, operations and support, including:

  • Cluster I 
  • GEOS-1 and GEOS-2 (1977-1982)
  • Meteosat 2 (1981-1991)
  • AMPTE (1984-1985)
  • CRRES (1990-1991)
  • Pulsaur (1994)
  • Meteosat 3 (1988-1995)
  • STRV (1994-1998)

Page last modified on 20 mar 15 13:31