ASIM observatory now installed on space station and operating. Photo: ESA/P. Thomsen

ASIM observatory now installed

Friday 20 Apr 18


Torsten Neubert
Chief Consultant
DTU Space
+45 45 25 97 31


Kristian Pedersen
DTU Space
+45 20 11 74 77

ASIM has three types of instruments

Roughly speaking, ASIM consists of three types of instruments:

  • Photometers that count photons and which can very precisely tell when something interesting is happening.

  • Optical cameras that show where it is happening.

  • X-ray detectors that tell what happens by analysing incoming radiation.

DTU is looking forward to receiving data from the ASIM space observatory, which was installed on the International Space Station (ISS) last weekend.

The lightning and thunder hunter ASIM from DTU Space is in place, switched on, and working. This is the result of the first, still ongoing, tests of ASIM in space.

Last Friday, the ASIM observatory was unpacked and installed on the outside of ISS using a robotic arm. Over the weekend, the equipment was then started up without any problems.

ASIM’s main computer has been started up, as is one of the two main instruments—the MXGS X-ray detector—where both the computer, power supplies, and eight detector modules have now been turned on and are working as expected. Also the second main instrument–the MMIA unit with optical cameras—is being started up and tested.

“Everything works as planned after the transport to the space station and the installation in a harsh environment on the outside of the space station. The next step is to test and calibrate the instruments. Then we can start collecting scientific data, which is when it gets really exciting,” says Kristian Pedersen, Director of DTU Space.

First data have arrived
From its position on the Columbus module outside the ISS—400 km above the Earth—the ASIM equipment will in the coming years study energy discharges from lightning and related processes during thunderstorms. The lightning strikes to be studied project into space—and not down towards—unlike the lightning strikes typically seen from the Earth. This happens around 20 to 100 km above the Earth. 

The first signals from X-ray radiation and lightning in space room have been received. They will initially be used to ensure that everything works as it should. It will take a few weeks before all the equipment has been tested and before data about the severe thunderstorms and lightning strikes can be collected and analysed more systematically by the researchers.

Data processed in Belgium and at DTU
The data from the ISS are received via ESA’s operations centre in Belgium, from where they are sent to the ASIM data centre at DTU Space. Here, the data are cleaned and sorted—among other things to remove ‘noise’—so that they become useful for the researchers.

ASIM reached the International Space Station (ISS) on 4 April. ASIM is Denmark’s most extensive space project to date. The project is owned by the European Space Agency (ESA), but is a Danish-led project. DTU Space is responsible for the scientific management, and the Danish company Terma handles the technical management of the project.

(The top-left of the picture at the top of the article shows ASIM installed on the ISS and the middle of the picture the Dragon vessel that transported it to the ISS. To the right of this, the robotic arm used to install ASIM on the outside of the Columbus module on the ISS can be faintly seen).

Read about ASIM here in English

ASIM news in English from project partners (ESA, Terma, and NASA)

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