Researchers from the University of Leicester will be showcasing the innovative space instrument they have developed which will be used to help provide the most complete exploration and study of the planet Mercury to date at the Farnborough Airshow on Friday 20 July.
The Mercury Imaging X-ray spectrometer (MIXS) instrument is the first imaging X-ray instrument to visit another planetary body.
It will observe the surface of Mercury from the BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter, which is scheduled to launch in October 2018, in order to determine the surface composition and the complex interaction between Mercury and its environment.
University of Leicester roles in the BepiColombo mission include Principal Investigator, development, production and calibration of the MIXS optics, calibration of focal plane detector, construction and testing of the MIXS instrument and flight data analysis.
The Leicester team will be attending the Farnborough Airshow’s Futures Day on Friday 20 July where they will be showcasing the research behind a ¼ scale 3D print of the MIXS instrument and speaking to members of the public about the importance of understanding the planets in our Solar System – and how we can apply this knowledge to our own planet.
BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury. It will set off in 2018 on a journey to the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System. When it arrives at Mercury in late 2025, it will endure temperatures in excess of 350 °C and gather data during its 1 year nominal mission, with a possible 1-year extension.
By measuring fluorescent X-rays from the surface, MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer) will provide a detailed analysis of the surface elemental composition of Mercury to aid our understanding of the planet’s evolution and formation processes. The MIXS data set will also provide information on surface-exosphere-magnetosphere interactions.
Professor Emma Bunce, who is the University of Leicester Principal Investigator on the BepiColombo mission, said: “This is a very exciting time for us at the University of Leicester, as we wait for the launch of the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury. This spacecraft carries our Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS) with it as part of its scientific payload. The data from our instrument and from the wider payload will revolutionise our understanding of Mercury.
“I look forward to sharing our excitement around this mission at the Futures Day, and encourage the next generation of scientists to come and work with us on the data in 2025!”
Dr Suzie Imber, who last year won BBC Two’s ‘Astronauts: Have You Got What It Takes?’, will be joining the Year of Engineering team at the Farnborough Airshow to help with their government-supported campaign to promote engineering during 2018.
Suzie was recently featured by the UK Space Agency as part of its ‘People Like Me’ campaign to inspire young girls to pursue STEM subjects and to engage with the space industry.
During the event, Suzie and other inspiring individuals working within the space industry will be speaking with astronaut Tim Peake, who received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Leicester in 2016.
Dr Suzie Imber said: “Working with young people is an immensely rewarding experience and I want to highlight the range of skills that the space sector will require in the upcoming decades, from law-makers to programmers, scientists to architects.  I’m hoping to inspire young people to be interested in science through showing them some of the adventures that my career has enabled me to experience.”
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed at the Farnborough Airshow earlier this week by the University of Leicester, the Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) and the National Space Centre to formally mark the start of the collaborative links with the region of Piemonte in Italy and the Polytechnic University of Turin.
The MoU represents a milestone for Space Park Leicester, an ambitious initiative to develop a global hub and collaborative community based on space and space-enabled technologies and boost the regional visibility of space within the East Midlands.
Professor Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Strategic Science Projects and Director of the Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation, said: “We are enormously excited about the launch of BepiColombo later this year and are pleased to have the opportunity to talk about our work at Leicester and the unique technology we have developed for the mission. This is a great example of the innovation that will take place in Space Park Leicester.”