A miniaturised experiment that will help to unveil the mysteries of a comet
is the latest of the instruments that will fly on ESA’s Rosetta Orbiter to
be delivered to Italy. Over the coming weeks, the ALICE experiment will be
tested and integrated to the Rosetta spacecraft at the Turin plant of Alenia

ALICE is scheduled to be the first ultraviolet (UV) spectrometer to study a
comet up close. Designed and built by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in
Boulder, Colorado, ALICE is the first in a new generation of UV spectrometers
that weigh less and require far less power than previous instruments of their
kind. Its development was triggered in the mid-1990s by NASA’s push to
miniaturise scientific instruments for future planetary missions.

The shoebox-sized ALICE is one-third to one-half the mass of comparable UV
spectrometers. After advanced laboratory development in support of Pluto
mission concept studies, ALICE was proposed and selected for development on
Rosetta by NASA and ESA in 1996. A more sophisticated version of ALICE has
been proposed for NASA’s hoped-for Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission.

“ALICE is a revolutionary instrument,” says Dr. S. Alan Stern, director of
the SwRI Space Studies Department and principal investigator for the ALICE
instrument.”It will reveal new insights into the origin, composition, and
workings of comets — insights that cannot be obtained by either ground-
based or Earth-orbital observations.” Stern serves

Developed at SwRI facilities in San Antonio, ALICE is one of the first
instruments to be delivered for installation on Rosetta. The ALICE science
team includes prominent comet scientists from France, the University of
Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University.

“Although UV spectrometers in Earth orbit have studied comets for many
years, ALICE will offer both unprecedented spatial resolution and unrivalled
spectral sensitivity,” said Stern.

The instrument features an advanced ‘micro-channel plate’ detector,
sophisticated optics, a miniaturised 6,000-volt power supply, and operates
on just 3 watts.

“The Rosetta mission has to operate out to 5 AU (astronomical units), where
the Sun is only 4 percent as bright as it is here on Earth. That means that
each instrument must do their part to be very efficient,” said ALICE Project
Manager John Scherrer, also of SwRI.

“Although ALICE is the first interplanetary UV spectrometer developed at
SwRI, its development went smoothly, and its performance meets and even
exceeds its original design specifications. It’s going to be very exciting
to see it returning data in flight,” said Dr. James Burch, vice president
of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division.

For further information contact:

Maria Martinez

SwRI press office

Tel: +1 210-522-3305

Dr. Alan Stern

ALICE Project Scientist

Tel.: +1 303-546-9670


* Rosetta home page


* Rosetta instrument ALICE


* Rosetta’s Scientific Instruments


* Meet some of the Rosetta team



[Image 1:
An artist’s impression of the Rosetta Spacecraft scheduled for launch in 2003.
Rosetta will rendezvous with Comet Wirtanen in summer 2012.

[Image 2:
The Rosetta Orbiter swoops over the Lander soon after touchdown on the nucleus
of Comet 46P/Wirtanen. (Photo courtesy Astrium).

[Image 3:
Rosetta Instrument ALICE. ALICE Principal Investigator is Dr. Alan Stern
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), USA.