ASIM is an observatory, installed on the European Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS). ASIM will study high-altitude electrical discharges in the stratosphere and mesosphere above severe thunderstorms, the so-called red sprites, blue jets, haloes, and elves, and monitor X-ray and Gamma-ray flashes.
The European Space Agency selected Terma to head the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), a European space program with the objective to take measurements and make observations from ISS. The observatory will measure high altitude lightning discharged from thunderstorms.
ASIM was installed on the European Columbus-module of ISS in April 2018. ASIM will be used by scientists all over the world for Earth observation in order to study high-altitude electrical discharges in the stratosphere and mesosphere above severe thunderstorms, the so-called red sprites, blue jets, haloes, and elves, and monitor X-ray and Gamma-ray flashes. The scientific studies are supported by pictures taken by the Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen during his space flight in 2015.
The video below has been produced by DTU Space:
As the prime contractor, Terma is responsible for ensuring progress and technical management of the project and for the coordination with ESA and subcontractors, and not least for delivering the ASIM observatory for handover to ESA, NASA, and SpaceX at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. ASIM underwent final inspection, was installed into the Dragon spacecraft, and launched to ISS by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in April 2018.
Development and manufacturing of the ASIM observatory, computers, and systems have been carried out in collaboration with Danish and European companies and universities.
In addition to performing the prime activities, Terma was also tasked with the development of the MMIA instrument in close collaboration with DTU Space. The development of the MXGS instrument was led by DTU Space in collaboration with the universities of Bergen, Warsaw, and Valencia, supported by the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) in Spain. The main ASIM computer and power unit have been developed by OHB Italia in Milan.
Checkout of ASIM at Kennedy Space Center
Modular Multi-spectral Imaging Array is an instrument which performs optical measurements.
Modular X-ray and Gamma-ray Sensor measures X-ray and Gamma-ray radiation from thunderstorms.
Data Handling and Power Unit provides the electrical and communication interface between ASIM and ISS.
After launch, Terma has contributed to the ASIM installation on ISS and the commissioning of the observatory in collaboration with ISS operations. Terma experts will support the staff at the control center in Belgium with calibration and adjustment of the instruments to provide optimum scientific measurements to the scientists at ASIM Data Science Center in Lyngby, Denmark, and worldwide.
ASIM mass and dimensions: 314 kg; 122 cm x 134 cm x 99 cm
The ASIM payload
ASIM will address a variety of important scientific and technological aspects which will include:
- Understanding of the processes involved in thunderstorm initiated electrical discharges
- Understanding the impact of thunderstorm initiated electrical discharges on atmospheric processes and possible links to climate determining factors
- Developing new technologies with spin-off into terrestrial applications for advanced process control and optical instrumentation
- Demonstrating the fruitful utilization of the collaborative investments in ISS
The video below has been produced by DTU Space, Illustrator Jan Erik Rasmussen
The thunderstorm initiated electrical discharges, to be observed by ASIM, are linked to violent storms in the tropics injecting water vapor, NOx, and other greenhouse gases into the stratosphere where they become a part of the climate moderators.
Based on the ASIM data, scientists will study these effects, as well as the electrical influence on the ionosphere and the atmospheric interactions with the particle radiation from the Sun. Both of which also have a direct bearing on the Earth’s climate.
Having the ASIM instrument on the ISS provides a unique opportunity for systematic monitoring of these phenomena on a global scale. Furthermore, the advanced detector technology to be used for ASIM will have spin-off into a range of important terrestrial applications.
Project Prime and Project Management
MMIA Instrument Team
- Terma A/S, Denmark
- DTU Space, Denmark
MXGS Instrument Team
- DTU Space, Denmark
- University of Bergen, Norway
- University of Valencia, Spain
- Space Research Centre at Polish Academy of Science, Poland
- National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), Spain
ASIM Principal Investigator
- DTU Space, Denmark (T. Neubert)
- University of Valencia, Spain (V. Reglero)
- University of Bergen, Norway (N. Østgaard)
- Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, France (E. Blanc)
ESA ASIM Science Coordinator
- ESA, The Netherlands (A. Orr)