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Successful SpaceX-launch

Technology from UiB safely attached to the ISS

The ASIM payload, built and designed partly at the University of Bergen, safely reached the International Space Station the 4th of April.

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SpaceX-oppskytning med ASIM-instrumentet.
The ASIM-instrument suite, which among other things will deliver pioneering data on terrestrial gamma-rays, was launched on a SpaceX-rocket towards the International Space Station (ISS). The successful launch took place the 2nd of April, 10:30 PM CET.

2nd of April was a historic day for the University of Bergen. Technology developed and built at the Birkeland Centre for Space Science (BCSS) at UiB was launced by SpaceX, from Cape Canaveral, next to NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After 14 years of planning, developing and building, BCSS-leader Nikolai Østgaard and his team could finally see the SpaceX rocket with the ASIM instrument rising into the air.

Just before 13:00 CET, April 4th, the SpaceX Dragon capsule, with the ASIM instrument on board, reached the International Space Station.

On NASA TV viewers around the globe could see the attachment of Dragon to ISS, at a velocity of near 28 000 km/h. Just like the launch two days prior, everything went as planned during this operation.  

The ASIM-instrument has thus reached the ISS, where it awaits its attachment to the Columbus Laboratory. This is scheduled for Friday the 13th of April, which will be another exciting day for BCSS and the University of Bergen.

- Incredible experience

A group from Bergen, including BCSS-leader Nikolai Østgaard and his team, as well as UiB-rector Dag Rune Olsen, was Monday in Florida to see the launch first hand.

"This was an incredible experience. The launch went exactly as planned. There are many smiling faces here now", BCSS-leader Østgaard said, shortly after the launch.

He felt there was great reason to celebrate this achievment, although there will be many important moments in the time to come; testing the instrument on ISS as one of the defining moments.

UiB-rector Olsen agreed with Østgaard that witnessing the launch had been very exciting. 

"We were watching from a safe distance, but during the engine ignition, you could really hear and feel the tremendous force of the engines. This has been a milestone in the ASIM-project, which is a result of many years with dedication and hard work. This is not just an important moment for the Birkeland Centre and the University of Bergen, but for all collaborating partners and many research groups around the world", he says. 

The first of a kind

ASIM (The Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor) is an advanced instrument package built to measure electrical discharges in thunderclouds. ASIM will measure gamma ray flashes from thunderclouds, as well as lightning, red sprites, blue jets, and elves.

The main contractor for ESA is Terma, and the development of ASIM has been a collaboration between multiple European companies and universities. BCSS has designed and built an important part of ASIM; the X-ray/gamma ray detector and its readout electronics.

Gamma ray flashes in thunderstorms weren't discovered until 1994, and are still largely unknown – which is why there is great excitement linked to the results of the research. ASIM is the first instrument built specifically for measuring such events.

The ASIM instrument suite will be operative following a test period of about six weeks, and is planned to be in working order late May/early June. It will be attached to ISS for two years, and The Birkeland Centre for Space Science will be central in the data analysis as well.