UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction


Space Instrumentation and Applications

Module Tutor: Prof. M. Cropper

Prof. A. Fazakerley, Dr K. al-Janabi, Prof. I. Hepburn, Dr D. Kataria, Prof. J.-P. Muller, Prof. L. Harra

Module: 15 credits

Department: Space and Climate Physics

This module aims to teach students about scientific instrumentation on satellites and spacecraft, their uses, design, operation and data processing. Specific topics include:

1. Spacecraft as observation platforms

Why go into space, space environment, space effects from Earth’s surface, in situ measurements, remote sensing, space as a laboratory, impact of space studies.

2. Systems approach to measurements

Analysis, detection, signal processing, data encoding, control. Spacecraft interface and subsystems: accommodation, attitude control, power conditioning. Examples from solar system exploration.

3. Spacecraft-environment interactions

Spacecraft charging in low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. Radiation damage effects. Background effects and their minimisation. Plasma influx, penetrating radiation, sunlight.

4. In-situ plasma measurements

Requirements; Energy and mass analysis for charged species from 1eV to 1MeV. Neutral mass spectrometers.

5. Detectors and sensors for in-situ measurements

Channeltrons, microchannel plates, solid state detectors, charge coupled devices, current collectors, antennas and probes, magnetometers and electric field sensors

6. Planetary analysis

Nuclear remote and in-situ measurement techniques. Introduction to planetary analysis, spectroscopy: γ-ray, X-ray, α-particle, neutron, Mossbauer. Visible light & dust particle measurement techniques. Imagers, experimental platforms, future missions, dust detectors. Radar instrumentation and chemical analysis.

7. Atmospheric measurements

Basic physics and chemistry, spectroscopy, practical instrument examples, applications of fundamental principles to measurements

8. Detectors and sensors for astrophysics

Radiometry, solid state physics, cooling, intrinsic and extrinsic photoconductors, radiation effects, stressed photoconductors, photodiodes, photoemission detectors, photomultipliers, image intensifiers, bolometers, coherent detectors, amplifiers; Attitude and position sensing: sun sensors, earth sensors, star sensors, magnetometers, attitude control

9. Astronomical observations (astrophysics, UV/optical/IR)

Radio, Microwave and Sub-millimeter, Far Infra-red and Infra-red, Visible and UV, X-ray, Gamma-ray, Formation Flying, Cryogenics

10. Solar measurements

Remote sensing instrumentation for studying the Sun. Motivation for observing the Sun, detectors used, telescope designs, instrumentation from the optical to gamma-ray wavelength ranges, future solar instrumentation.

11. Onboard and ground data processing

System overview, onboard data processing, data compression techniques, on-board data handling (OBDH) and telemetry systems, spacewire, ground systems

12. Case studies I: Case studies of missions

13. Case studies II: Student presentations of case study missions