An Omega Laboratory instrument onboard the ISS
The application-specific integrated circuit SPACIROC, designed and developed at the École polytechnique OMEGA Laboratory, was launched onboard a Soyuz rocket on August 22. Destination: the International Space Station.
Starting October 8, Mini-EUSO will undertake the first mapping of the ultraviolet light emissions from Earth at night. Its field of action ranges from the observation of meteors to the study of variations in the bioluminescence of plankton or algae. The Mini-EUSO instrument is the result of an international collaboration whose goal is the detection of particle showers formed by the collision of ultra-high energy cosmic rays with our atmosphere. With energies up ~1020 eV ((which exceeds the ~1013 eV reachable by the world’s most powerful accelerator, the LHC), these particles, which seem to be simple atomic nuclei accelerated by a mechanism as yet undetermined, have travelled for dozens of millions of years from unknown sources in other galaxies before provoking a huge cascade of particles in the Earth’s atmosphere when they reach their journey’s end. It is the fluorescent light produced in the ultraviolet band by the relaxation of the nitrogen molecules of the air, excited by the passing of billions of secondary particles, that allows researchers to identify these particles, and determine their energy and arrival direction.
The commissioning of a Mini-EUSO type detector in space with coverage of an unprecedented volume of atmosphere, enhances detection capacity significantly, making it more likely than ever that we can achieve an understanding of the origin of cosmic rays.
The SPACIROC circuit has been specifically designed for the constraints of space applications and is therefore made to consume little energy and withstand radiation.
The OMEGA Laboratory has great expertise in the design of application-specific integrated circuits for operating in challenging environments, since it has long participated in the LHC’s ATLAS and CMS experiments, where radiation levels are around 1,000 times higher than those encountered in space.
Next step for the SPACIROC circuits will be the EUSO-SPB2 mission, under a NASA stratospheric balloon, scheduled for 2022.