24/7 Space News
SPACEMART
Final three for ESA's next medium science mission
ESA stock illustration only
ADVERTISEMENT
Final three for ESA's next medium science mission
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Nov 09, 2023

The space science community has narrowed down the shortlist for ESA's next 'medium' mission to three finalists: M-Matisse, Plasma Observatory and Theseus. Following further study, one will be selected for implementation as the newest addition to ESA's space science mission fleet.

Medium (or 'M-class') missions are a key component of ESA's Science Programme that enable Europe to answer important scientific questions. Solar Orbiter, Euclid and Mars Express are examples of flying M-class missions, while Plato and Ariel are currently being built for launch in the next six years.

From the Sun to dark matter, ESA's existing M-class missions cover a huge range of space science topics. The newest addition would complement the fleet by shedding light on the habitability and evolution of Mars (M-Matisse), exploring the plasma environment around Earth (Plasma Observatory) or studying high-energy, short-lived events across the cosmos (Theseus).

In December 2021, ESA called for proposals for the next M-class mission, pencilled in for launch in the mid-2030s. From 27 responses, experts within and outside ESA used rigorous scientific and technical assessments and a peer review selection process to narrow down the number of proposals in the running. In November 2022, five mission concepts remained.

Between January and September 2023, these final five went through 'Phase 0' studies - an undertaking that explores the expected science that could be achieved with each mission, as well as coming up with a preliminary mission design.

Today, ESA's Science Programme Committee endorsed the decision that three of the five - M-Matisse, Plasma Observatory and Theseus - will enter a more detailed study period (Phase A) to continue exploring their potential. More information about the science goals of each mission can be found at the end of this article.

"All five mission proposals that went through Phase 0 were excellent - they addressed unique and exciting topics, and were achievable in the mid-2030s timeframe, so it was really difficult to come to a final decision," explains ESA Director of Science, Carole Mundell.

"We established a panel of experts from ESA Member States to review the candidate missions. The reviewers followed a strict selection process, which included looking at science value, scientific feasibility, timeliness and complementarity with other projects."

Cecilia Hernandez of AEE (Agencia Espacial Espanola), Spain, Chair of the Science Programme Committee, adds: "We would like to congratulate all five proposals, each of which showed excellent promise to shed light on unanswered space science questions. We look forward to the many discoveries that will be made by the final selected mission."

During the upcoming Phase A studies, for each candidate mission two different aerospace companies will run a detailed study, resulting in a more comprehensive design for each mission. It is expected that one candidate mission will be chosen by mid-2026.

This mission will ultimately form part of ESA's fleet of science missions, which cover a wide range of ambitious space science themes. Whether it is M-Matisse, Plasma Observatory or Theseus, it will be a valuable addition to the squad.

M-Matisse would study Mars using two spacecraft, each carrying an identical set of instruments to observe Mars simultaneously from two different locations in space. In particular, M-Matisse would shed light on how the solar wind influences Mars's atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere. The mission aims to investigate the impact of these interactions on Mars's lower atmosphere and surface, which is a key aspect to understand the Red Planet's habitability, as well as the evolution of its atmosphere and climate.

Plasma Observatory is a seven-spacecraft mission to study the environment of electrically charged particles (called a plasma) around Earth. It would focus on two questions: how are particles energised in space plasmas? What processes dominate energy transport and drive interactions between the different regions of Earth's magnetospheric system? Plasma Observatory would complement ESA's current and planned missions looking at the Sun-Earth interaction to support our understanding of how the solar wind affects our planet, ultimately helping us keep life and technology safe from its effects.

Theseus is a multi-instrument mission focusing on high-energy, short-lived events in the cosmos. In particular, Theseus would look at gamma-ray bursts near and far. Nearby, shorter-lived, gamma-ray bursts are likely counterparts to gravitational waves released by merging neutron stars. Distant, longer-lived gamma-ray bursts would help us understand more about the emergence of the first galaxies in the Universe. Overall, Theseus would cover a broad spectrum of science, from stellar astrophysics and the effects of stellar activity on exoplanets, to the physics of matter accretion and particle acceleration processes.

New way forward for future large (L-class) mission: NewAthena
ESA's Science Programme Committee has also endorsed a rescoped version of Athena, which was selected as a large mission in 2014. Designed to capture X-ray light to study the hot and energetic Universe, the way forward for 'NewAthena' is expected to transform our knowledge in almost every corner of modern astrophysics.

ESA and industrial partners have worked hard to come up with a simplified mission design that meets the cost requirements set by the Science Programme Committee but nevertheless delivers scientific excellence and ambition in line with that expected of a flagship L-class mission.

The adoption of NewAthena is expected in 2027, with launch planned for 2037.

Related Links
Science Programme at ESA
The latest information about the Commercial Satellite Industry

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
SPACEMART
European Space Agency turns to private sector to deliver cargo shuttle serving the ISS
Washington DC (UPI) Nov 7, 2023
European Space Agency member countries agreed to back a program for a commercial space cargo shuttle serving the International Space Station by 2028, with an option for a crewed spacecraft that could venture beyond Earth orbit in the future. The resolution adopted at the agency's interministerial summit in Seville, Spain on Monday will see European companies compete for a contract to deliver a commercial cargo service to carry supplies to the ISS and bring cargo back to Earth, ESA said in a new ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
SPACEMART
NASA awards medal to worm logotype designer Richard Danne

Workshop to highlight NASA's support for mobility, in-space servicing

Reaching New Frontiers in Science Supported by Public Participation

Inspiring the Next Generation with Student Challenges and Learning Opportunities

SPACEMART
Pioneering satellite refueling technology could extend missions indefinitely

High-power propulsion for gateway will be electric blue

Early production continues on Advanced Upper Stage for SLS

Starlink mission brings SpaceX's orbital launch count to 80 missions so far in 2023

SPACEMART
The Ones Who Make Curiosity Go: Sols 4001-4003

Curiosity rover clocks 4,000 sols on Mars

Estimating depositional timing on Mars using cosmogenic radionuclide data

Mars Climate Sounder data reveals new cloud trends, study shows

SPACEMART
New scientific experimental samples from China's space station return to Earth

Shenzhou XVI crew return after 'very cool journey'

Chinese astronauts return to Earth with fruitful experimental results

Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 'successful' mission

SPACEMART
European Space Agency turns to private sector to deliver cargo shuttle serving the ISS

Foxconn awards Exolaunch with contract to deploy the group's first satellites

ESA's Proba-3 Formation Flying Mission Proceeds to Final Checks

Sidus Space secures new agreement for LizzieSat data sales

SPACEMART
ESA hones 3D Printed electromagnetic coils for spaceflight

World-first Zero Debris Charter goes live

Three-Body Tethered Satellite System Deploys Successfully in Simulations

Planet Labs advances satellite communication with NASA CSP ground tests

SPACEMART
An ammonia trail to exoplanets

Scorching, seven-planet system revealed by new Kepler Exoplanet list

Jurassic worlds might be easier to spot than modern Earth

Giant planets cast a deadly pall

SPACEMART
Salts and organics observed on Ganymede's surface by June

New jet stream discovered in Jupiter's upper atmosphere

Uranus aurora discovery offers clues to habitable icy worlds

How NASA is protecting Europa Clipper from space radiation

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.