Space experts have recently been working long hours in Florida to get the ASIM project completely ready for the scheduled launch into space on 2 April 22:30 Central European Time (CET). The launch will take place from Cape Canaveral at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The instrument package that constitutes ASIM (the Atmosphere Space Interactions Monitor) has been successfully installed in the Dragon module which will carry the equipment up to the International Space Station, ISS, on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from the private company SpaceX.
Close international collaboration
The mission is an international project realized through the European Space Agency (ESA). The Danish company Terma has the technical leadership while The National Space Institute of the Danish Technical University (DTU Space) provides the scientific leadership.
“The ASIM project is the largest Danish Space project ever developed. For Terma, it has been a very exciting journey to lead an international team of scientists and engineers who in the past 10 years have been involved in the development. We are now ready to launch the observatory to the space station”, said Carsten Jørgensen, Terma Senior Vice President, Space.
ASIM is an observatory, which will be installed outside on the ISS on the European Columbus module. ASIM will be used to study high-altitude electrical discharges in the stratosphere and mesosphere above severe thunderstorms, the so-called red sprites, blue jets, haloes, and elves, and monitor X-ray and Gamma-ray flashes. A knowledge which can be used to identify climate processes in the atmosphere and improve climate models for the Earth.
“We are looking forward to work with the scientific data from ASIM,” said DTU Space director Kristian Pedersen.
Space crafts can be reused
Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft that brings supplies and equipment to ISS. It is located at the top of the 70 meter high Falcon 9 rocket.
The launch mission that ASIM is part of is called SpaceX CRS-14. Both the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon module can return to the Earth and be reused by SpaceX.
ASIM is now positioned in the open cargo area of the module together with two other experiments to be launched to ISS. Getting ASIM positioned in the Dragon module has been carried out in close collaboration between Terma, NASA, SpaceX and ESA.
Chief Consultant at DTU Space Per Lundahl Thomsen who also works on the ASIM project looks forward to the launch of ASIM and to the new knowledge the mission will provide.
“It has taken more than ten years to implement this amazing idea, and now we have almost reached the goal. More than 100 dedicated experts from Denmark, Norway, Poland, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, and the United States have participated in the project. We look forward to reaping the scientific benefits of all the work that has been put into development, design, and testing of ASIM,” he said.
Following the plan, the Dragon spacecraft will be joined with the Falcon 9 launcher about four days before the launch on 2 April at 22:30 CET. However, weather, technique, and security challenges may lead to changes to the schedule, but the uncertainty will decrease as the time of launch approaches.
The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science has supported the ASIM project through different funding initiatives through ESA.