BX26 – OSCAR-QLITE (Optical Sensors based on CARbon materials: Quantum Lightweight ITEration)

Hasselt University, BELGIUM

Launch Date: TBD 2018

Diamond contains opto-magnetic defects, called Nitrogen Vacancy (NV) centers, in its crystalline lattice. The NV centers can be used as a magnetic probe with sub-picotesla sensitivity. Increased precision of magnetometry can lead to improvements in lot of domains, for example in space exploration, space weather, navigation, biomedical technologies and others. The NV center is a solid state qubit and by use of quantum readout protocols, it is possible to detect not only intensity of magnetic field, but also its frequency. This can be used for decoupling of the individual sources of the magnetic field. During the OSCAR BEXUS23 flight, a classical optical, diamond-based magnetometer was tested. The complex optical path puts limits to the use of an optical based diamond device, as mainly the bulkiness and a slower sampling rate are drawbacks. OSCAR-QLITE brings a new electrical detection method that ensures the NV center key properties (ultra-high sensitivity, fast response time) can be optimized. The aim of OSCAR-QLITE is the development and testing of a miniature ultra-sensitive diamond-based magnetometer, suitable for use in aerospace industry. This step will provide a solid basis for further deployment of this type of technology for long term application in space for measurements of unknown weak magnetic fields (i.e. on board of cubesat).


BX15 – AMES (Atmospheric Magnetic and Electric field Sensor)

Lycée Gustave Eiffel of Cachan, France

Launch Date: 25 September 2012

The Ionosphere has a large electric potential, on the order of 300kV, to the Earth’s surface. The result of this phenomenon is that the Earth is effectively a global-scale capacitor formed of two concentric, spherical conductive shells. This Earth-scaled capacitor is charged by cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning and precipitation and discharges constantly, in fair weather, through atmospheric electric current comprised of ionised molecules. This represents a global electric current (GEC). In fair weather conditions, any variation in the atmospheric electric field (AEF), results in a simultaneous, corresponding change all over the World. The GEC is heavily influenced by global atmospheric conditions, such as global warming, and may also affect global meteorology (GM). In order to better understand the relationship between GEC and GM, the ionospheric electric potential is to be investigated by taking direct measurements of the AEF, using the BEXUS platform.


BX09 – COMPASS (Calculating & Observing Magnetic PolAr field intensity in StratoSphere)

University of Bologna, Italy

Launch Date: 11 October 2009

The objectives of the COMPASS experiment were three-fold. [1] To study the Earth’s magnetic field, and compare its extent and direction against the International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF) model. [2] To measure the solar flux that reaches our Planet, and compare it against the values predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [3] To field test a sun-sensor for attitude control. The Geomagnetic field is relevant to an array of different fields, and is frequently used as a means of navigation and attitude control for both air- and spacecraft by comparing the IGRF against onboard magnetometer readings. Solar flux behaviour is strongly linked to Earth’s magnetic field, and can provide insight into the Sun’s behaviour. To conduct these studies the experiment used several instruments, including a magneto-resistive magnetometer to measure the geomagnetic field; and an Inertial Measurement Unit, two cameras and a Sun Sensor for attitude control and solar flux readings. The experiment results were used to evaluate the accuracy of the IGRF model close to the North Pole, and to try to account for any discrepancies

COMPASS Conference Paper



RX06 – AGADE (Applied Geomagnetics for Attitude Determination Experiment)

Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, Germany

Launch Date: 12 March 2009

The AGADE’s aim was to test and compare a variety of small, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) 3-axes magnetometer assemblies, which are able to measure the Earth’s magnetic field in terms of absolute value and orientation, for Cubesat applications. To this end, five magnetometers – some of which had been previously used in Cubesat designs, and some that were untested in flight conditions – were selected and launched together with a high precision, calibration magnetometer. To evaluate the performance and physical limitations of these COTS magnetometers, information was gathered on the rockets attitude and trajectory during flight. This data was then compared with a host of reference material post flight, including the REXUS rocket’s flight data, a standard Earth magnetic field reference model and time-dependent variations of Earth’s magnetic field derived from ground and rocket based high precision magnetometers.


BX07 – AURORA (Stratosphere and magnetic field polar explorer)

School of Aerospace Engineering, University of Rome, Italy

Launch Date: 8 October 2008

The main goal of AURORA was to study the polar lights phenomena that are characteristic of the Kiruna region, by measuring the physical properties of the stratosphere; including ambient temperatures, magnetic field intensity and local topography. The aurora phenomena are caused by energetic charged particles interacting with the upper atmosphere, which are then funnelled into the atmosphere by the Earths magnetic field, resulting in colourations of the night sky. The AURORA team wanted to develop a low cost, commercially available system capable of studying extremely severe environments which may find applications in several industries. The system architecture was therefore based on a PC104 embedded computer system, equipped with COTS sensors, and a RS-232 serial magnetometer and thermal sensors. Telescopic cameras were also used to photograph the Kiruna landscape. To resist the extremely low temperatures and pressures associated with this region, AURORA was equipped with a robust thermal protection system, and redundant data storage systems. The AURORA experiment aimed to collect and compare the atmospheric data with that of the 1976 US Standard Model and the IGRF model of the magnetic field.