The Danish high-tech company Terma is to head a European space project with the objective to take measurements and make observations from the International Space Station (ISS).
The research project ASIM – The Atmosphere Space Interactions Monitor – is an observatory that in 2014 will be placed at the exterior of the Columbus module of the European part of the ISS.
ASIM will monitor and take images of the high altitude lightning that is discharged from thunderclouds towards the conductive ionosphere stretching up to altitudes of 90-100 km.
The formations of lightning are known as “red sprites”, “blue jets”, and “elves”. The purpose is to study these phenomena and learn about their impact on the atmosphere, e.g. if they affect the concentration of water vapour, ozon and nitrogen oxides (NOx gasses) important to the climate balance.
This is the first time, Terma is main contractor of space equipment on a program for the European space organization ESA and at the same time it is the largest Danish commitment in space since the 0rsted satellite.
At the beginning, the project was initiated from Denmark and in fase A carried through as a study headed by the Danish National Space Center (now DTU Space). In the next industrial phase B, Terma was responsible for the specifications and design. The production phase © was initiated at the beginning of August 2010 with expected launch and activation (phase D) in 2014.
Further to participating actively in the development of optical instruments for the ASIM, Terma is also heading and coordinating the joint activities from the participating countries and companies and is responsible for the total program to ESA. Besides Denmark, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Spain are also participating in the program.
DTU Space has an executive scientific role in the program and is to supply one of the main instruments, the so-called MXGS Instrument, which is to measure X-radiation from the lightnings. Furthermore, a number of Danish companies participate as sub-suppliers.
Denmark has made an exceptional effort to ensure the project by entering the program ELIPS – European Programme for Life and Physical Sciences – in 2008. In the same year, the political intention to strengthen Danish space activities was confirmed by an appropriation from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.
As mentioned, ASIM will be placed on the European laboratory module Columbus. In 2014, Terma will supply the one cubic meter instrument unit to Japan, where the ASIM will be launched from a Japanese rocket. The transportation to the ISS and the installation is headed by the American space organization NASA in cooperation with the Japanese space organization JAXA.