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Accueil > A propos du LPP > Communication > Actualités archivées > 2016 > Confirmation of Cluster mission extension in 2017 and 2018

Confirmation of Cluster mission extension in 2017 and 2018

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Vue d’artiste des quatre satellites Cluster, avec au premier plan, au bout d’un bras de 5 mètres, le magnétomètre alternatif conçu et fabriqué par le LPP

The ESA Scientific Programs Committee (SPC) has approved a further two-year extension of the Cluster mission’s operations. During this new phase, 2017-2018, of an already very rich mission, the use of this very powerful tool constituted by this set of 4 identical satellites, will allow to address new research topics that allows the evolution of its orbit. This new phase is as promising as the previous one, which led, for example, to cross the Earth’s bow shock with a separation between two satellites less than 3.5 km, an objective far beyond what its designers could dream. The elevation of its perigee will thus open access to the” jet braking” region (7-9 Earth radii) of the streams initially accelerated in the tail of the magnetosphere, which will thus be better characterized by these multi scales measurements. The interest of this region had already been emphasized during the development of the Cluster project, but its crossing could not be combined with the orbit necessary for the initial mission. This new extension will also make possible to determine the extension in longitude (local time) and the dawn-dusk asymmetry of the polar cusp - a subject of major interest to the mission - that the initial orbit had not been able to explore. The simultaneous operations of the four actual multi-satellite missions, Cluster, THEMIS, Van Allen Probes and MMS, are also a unique opportunity to study magnetospheric physics simultaneously on a large and small scale, Cluster being the only one among these missions to be on a polar orbit.

The soundness of the scientific arguments had already been recognized in November 2014, the decision of the SPC of November 2016 endorsed the continuation of the necessary technical performances. The point was to verify that all the key elements of this mission, satellites, instruments, operational centers, scientific teams in the laboratories, ground segment, archiving center, were still able - 16 years after the start of a mission designed to be operational for 2 years - to provide quality data required by these new scientific objectives.

The LPP is heavily involved in this mission and its achievements, through a PI instrument - STAFF - and Co-I contributions in two other instruments, Whisper and Peace, with significant support from CNES. These instruments continue to function nominally and produce quality data. Several members of the Space Plasmas team, supported by the Laboratory’s IT team, continue the day-to-day operations for the remote control of flight operations, verification of the correct functioning of the instruments, data formatting, calibration and validation of their quality, before final archiving at the ESA’s CSA (Cluster Scientific Archive) and at the CNRS-CNES CDPP (Plasma Physics Data Center), where they become public.

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Tutelles : CNRS Ecole Polytechnique Sorbonne Université Université Paris Sud Observatoire de Paris Convention : CEA
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Exploitant du site : Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas, Ecole Polytechnique route de Saclay F-91128 PALAISEAU CEDEX
Hébergeur : Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas, Ecole Polytechnique route de Saclay F-91128 PALAISEAU CEDEX
Directeur de la publication : Pascal Chabert (Directeur)