STFC builds revolutionary radiation monitors for ESA
15 Jul 2010
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STFCs reputation for the development of world class space science instrumentation and high performance detector systems has led to the award of a significant contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to STFC and Imperial College London, to develop the n

 
 

STFC's reputation for the development of world class space science instrumentation and high performance detector systems has led to the award of a significant contract by the European Space Agency (link opens in a new window) (ESA) to STFC and Imperial College London, to develop the next generation radiation monitor for ESA spacecraft.

Capitalising on STFC-funded technology development in Space Science, High Energy Physics and Detector Technology, the monitor will provide detailed information on the type and intensity of radiation which damages spacecraft. These data will enable engineers to design and operate spacecraft that are better able to withstand the rigours of the hostile space radiation environment and deliver services such as GPS, telecommunications, weather and climate monitoring more cheaply and reliably.

This is a great project for 'UK plc' because the wider public is seeing real-world benefits from long term UK investments in fundamental science and technology.

​The new radiation monitor represents a breakthrough in terms of performance, weight, power and price. In the next phase of the programme, STFC plans to commercialise the monitor for European and non-European markets generating valuable, high-tech jobs and export income.

Douglas Griffin from RAL Space, who is heading up the project said, "This is a great project for 'UK plc' because the wider public is seeing real-world benefits from long term UK investments in fundamental science and technology. Further down the track, I am sure that this radiation monitor will seed new ideas to open up novel areas of scientific investigation and commercial exploitation."

Renato Turchetta, at STFC's Technology department, said: "This contract is excellent news for STFC and recognition of STFC's world leading skills in detector systems. STFC's scientists and engineers have significant, direct experience of developing instruments for monitoring space radiation. This unique sensor that STFC is designing for ESA has the potential to revolutionise standard, routine radiation monitoring on all European spacecraft and make it much more accessible to the wider user community."

Scientists at Imperial College London are contributing to the instrument's design and developing the data processing algorithm. Dr Henrique Araújo highlighted the importance of exploiting the synergy between university and STFC research in this area: "This complementarity of resources and talents can drive both research and economic impact, and this is very much an advantage in the field of space technology."

As the UK Technology Transfer broker (link opens in a new window) for the ESA Technology Transfer Programme, STFC, through its knowledge exchange and commercialisation division, STFC Innovations Ltd, will also now evaluate this technology's commercial potential in non-European markets as well as the possibility of wider applications of this technology outside of the space sector. The ESA Technology Transfer Programme facilitates the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications, using various tools such as a European technology broker network, of which STFC is a member, and the online technology database (link opens in a new window), where space and non-space companies can match their technologies to existing technological needs of various industries. This transfer into non-space applications can have many benefits for people across Europe and on Earth and it is anticipated that this unique radiation monitor could be applied to a number of sectors, including healthcare, security, nuclear energy and the environment.

This new contract for ESA is well aligned to STFC's concept for a Detector Systems Centre (link opens in a new window). The Centre is intended to bring academic and industrial collaborators together with STFC's world-class detector capabilities and knowledge base. Building on STFC's world class reputation for microelectronics training and the development and delivery of specialised, high performance detector systems, the Detector Systems Centre will seek to maximise the impact of emerging sensor technologies on a wide range of economically important application areas.​

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries

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