Gas Analyser Technology
19 Mar 2018



RAL Space provides the electronic control systems for Open University developed gas analyser instruments. 


​​​CAD model of the ProSPA instrument


The gas analyser instruments are used to identify elements with light atomic mass, such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen as well as simple volatile compounds that are in the atmosphere local to the instrument or driven off solid matter by heating to 1000 °C in a sealed oven.  A typical range of compounds/elements measured includes H2, H2O, OH, CO, CO2, CH3OH, Hydrocarbons from C1-C6, H2S, NH3, SO2, COS, CS2, HCN, CH3CHO, NOx, N2, O2, Kr, Xe, Ar, Ne, He, Hg. As well as identifying species the instrument is also capable of determining element isotopes. The early instruments consisted of a single mass spectrometer but later ones include two types to improve the science return by adding measurement flexibility.  The instruments, the size of a shoe box, typically have a similar function to two room sized mass spectrometry systems.

RAL Space provides the control electronics and software for the gas analyser systems manufactured by the Open University.  This includes the specialist circuits that drive the two mass spectrometers, the central control computer and a data interface tailored to the specific spacecraft requirements.  The control software has been developed to allow for maximum operational flexibility so that analysis runs can be adjusted once the instrument has carried out initial analysis of a sample. The in-house production facility manufactures the circuit board assemblies, completes functional testing and applies conformal coat prior to assembly into the electronics system housing. 

The gas analysis systems can be used on a wide range of missions and the data products will be of interest to both scientists and technologists.  The present instrument programme is designed to provide more information on Lunar materials, this will provide data to support the viability of manufacturing a lunar outpost from materials sourced directly from the lunar surface. 

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries​​