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The NanoMagSat mission gets go-ahead from ESA!

The Programme Board for Earth Observation of the European Space Agency (ESA) has just decided to proceed with the NanoMagSat mission. This mission, initiated by IPGP (Université Paris Cité, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, CNRS) in close collaboration with CEA-LETI, will be developed as part of ESA's Scout programme by an industrial and academic consortium led by the British company Open Cosmos, also involving IPGP, CEA-LETI and many other European partners. The mission is due to be launched at the end of 2027, with the aim of studying the Earth's magnetic field and ionospheric environment, as well as risks associated with space weather.

The NanoMagSat mission gets go-ahead from ESA!

Artist's view of one of the 3 Cubesats on the NanoMagSat mission in orbit around the Earth © Open Cosmos & NanoMagSat consortium

Publication date: 11/03/2024

Press, Research

Related teams :
Geomagnetism

The Earth’s magnetic field protects our planet from incoming energetic charged particles and organizes the way the near outer space and the ionized upper layers of the atmosphere respond to solar activity. This response can produce strong magnetic signals that can damage ground infrastructures such as power transmission networks. It can also create radiation hazards for satellites, as well as multiple ionospheric perturbations that can severely perturb radio transmissions, radars and positioning systems, such as the GPS and Galileo systems (hazards known as space weather hazards). Monitoring the Earth’s magnetic field and ionospheric environment allows investigating these phenomena. It can also be used to better understand the long-term evolution of the field, aid precise navigation, reveal properties of the shallow and deep Earth, and provide key information for geophysical surveys.

This monitoring is currently done from ground, by using magnetic observatories such as those of the INTERMAGNET network to which the IPGP contributes, and from space, by relying on the three satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA) Earth Explorer Swarm constellation, which carry magnetometers built by CEA-Léti, customer furnished by the French space agency CNES and under the scientific responsibility of the IPGP. To complement these networks and take advantage of lessons learnt from Swarm, the NanoMagSat project, initiated by IPGP and CEA-LETI with initial support from CNES, will be developed by a European consortium of academic and industrial partners under the responsibility of the British company Open Cosmos.

Following the success of a “Risk Retirement Activities” phase carried out in 2023 with the support of ESA, the European agency announced on 21 February that the mission will now be developed as part of its Scout program. This programme takes advantage of a “New Space” approach to carry out scientific Earth observation missions relying on a short development process (3 years) and reduced budget (less than €35 million). Scouts are small satellites that add value to scientific observations, either by miniaturising existing technologies or by demonstrating new observation techniques.

The NanoMagSat mission will consist of a constellation of three 16U cubesats (22 x 22 x 44 cm3, with a 3m deployable boom), designed to improve the space-time coverage of the measurements to be acquired. The payload is unprecedented. It will comprise a miniaturised version of the Swarm ASM instruments developed by CEA-LETI to provide the data needed to monitor the planetary components of the magnetic field. The payload will also allow identification of “whistlers” produced by atmospheric lightning that can be used to probe the ionosphere, measurements of the local electron density and temperature, and reconstruction of total electron content (TEC) and ionospheric radio occultation profiles.

At the IPGP, Gauthier Hulot, director of research at the CNRS and scientific manager of the mission, and his team will now supervise the scientific performances resulting from the technical and instrumental development of the mission, and set up the tools for producing, controlling and distributing the data produced by the mission on behalf of ESA. The staggered launches of the 3 cubesats are scheduled to begin at the end of 2027.

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