Thursday, August 11, 2022

CERN successfully launched its first satellite for radiation monitoring in space

With this launch, CERN shows its expertise in the field of radiation effects on electronics.

On 13 July 2022, the first CERN-driven space mission was launched successfully by the European Space Agency from the French Guiana Space Centre (CSG). The takeoff of -what is known as CELESTA, the first CERN-driven satellite- occured at 13.13 UTC.

The satellite successfully entered orbit during the maiden flight of Europe’s Vega-C launch vehicle.

CELESTA- the microsatellite- is the first space mission driven by CERN, in collaboration with the University of Montpellier and the European Space Agency (ESA). It aims to study the effects of cosmic radiation on electronics. The satellite has been sent into an Earth orbit of almost 6000 kilometers.

CELESTA, which stands for CERN latchup and radmon experiment student satellite, is a 1U CubeSat. It carries a miniature version of a well-proven radiation monitoring device called Space Radeon, deployed on CERN’s LHC. The device is entirely based on standardized, commercial-off-the-shelf components, selected and calibrated at CERN. In real-time, it will measure radiation effects such as total ionizing dose, upsets, and matchups.

CELESTA- the first CERN technology demonstrator in space
This picture shows CELESTA, the first CERN technology demonstrator in space. It was taken during the radiation testing of the satellite inside the CHARM facility at CERN. (Image: CERN)

Markus Brugger, Head of the CERN Experimental Areas group and initiator of both the CHARM and CELESTA projects in the context of the R2E (Radiation to Electronics) initiative, explains, “Right in the middle of the inner Van Allen belt, CELESTA will survey an unusual orbit where radiation levels are at their highest.”

Ruben Garcia Alia, R2E project leader, said, “Based entirely on standardized, ultra-sensitive components selected and calibrated by CERN, and mostly in CERN facilities, the Space Radeon is a lightweight and low-power instrument, ideal for future risk-tolerant space missions. If CELESTA is successful, the Space Radeon could even be adapted to satellite constellations as a predictive maintenance tool – to anticipate the necessary renewal of satellites.”

A CELESTA satellite radiation model was also tested in CHARM, a mixed-field laboratory at CERN that can closely mimic a low Earth orbit radiation environment. The mission will be a crucial test of this facility’s capability.

Salvatore Danzeca, CHARM facility coordinator, said, “Capable of testing satellites all at once, rather than component by component, CHARM is a unique installation worldwide, remarkably different from other irradiation test facilities. It offers a simple, low-cost alternative and the possibility to assess system-level effects.”

Enrico Chesta, CERN’s Aerospace and Environmental Applications Coordinator in the Knowledge Transfer group, said“On a mission to make space more accessible, CELESTA is an exciting example of how CERN expertise can have a positive impact on the aerospace industry. With this mission, CERN displays its low-cost solutions for measuring radiation and testing satellites against it – thus providing universities, companies, and startups with the means to realize their space ambitions.”

CELESTA is based on the CSUM radiation tolerant platform. It will be operated from the CSUM control center. The European Space Agency provided the launch slot in the framework of its small satellite program.


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