Space mission involving Poles starts on Monday

On board a Falcon-9 rocket, taking off on Monday April 2 from Cape Canaveral, will be a scientific instrument made with the participation of Poles, among others. It will be used to observe phenomena of interest in the upper atmosphere.

The aim of the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) scientific study is to research mysterious phenomena and radiation flares that appear in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The SpaceX-built Falcon-9 rocket carrying the instrument, will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 16.30 local time (22.30 Polish time). Among those working on the instrument were specialists from the Polish Academy of Sciences' Space Research Centre and Polish firm Creotech Instruments S. A.

Creotech Instruments stated in a press release sent to PAP that after disconnecting from the Falcon-9 rocket, the 'Dragon' spacecraft will supply material and equipment, including the ASIM apparatus, to the International Space Station (ISS) and then return to Earth. The apparatus will be placed in the European module of the ISS, called Columbus.

"ASIM will research relations between mysterious phenomena taking place during strong storms in the stratosphere and mezosphere at a height of several tens of thousands of metres above the Earth's surface," Jacek Kosiec of Creotech Instruments explained in the press release. Because these phenomena occur during storms, when the sky is obscured by clouds, they cannot be observed from Earth. "However, there are many indicators that they have an effect on Earth's weather, and researching them will enable the creation of more accurate climatic models of our planet," Kosiec continued.

The ASIM apparatus contains two measuring instruments intended to operate together. The first of them (MMIA - Modular Multi-Imaging Assembly, a set of optical cameras) will uncover and observe so-called Transient Luminous Events - TLEs). The geographic timetable of these phenomena coincides with the occurrence of other mysterious effects, namely short-term (nanosecond) flashes of gamma radiation (TGF - Terrestrial Gamma Flashes). The second of ASIM's instruments - MXGS - is tasked with collecting data on these invisible radiation flares. Thanks to data gathered by the space observatory, scientists on Earth will be able to research the dependency between the observable Transient Luminous Events and the invisible gamma radiation flashes.

The project has been conducted through an ASIM consortium commissioned by the European Space Agency. The consortium is headed by Danish firm Terma, which is the main technical contractor. The project has cost almost EUR 40 million and has taken 10 years with the involvement of 100 specialists from Denmark, Norway, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States and Poland.