A cornerstone of modern physics is to be studied by the Microscope payload on Arianespace’s next Soyuz mission
Pre-launch preparation activity is underway in French Guiana with the Microscope satellite, which will be orbited from the Spaceport in April aboard an Arianespace Soyuz launcher to validate a cornerstone of modern physics: the equivalence principle.
The Microscope satellite is readied for its pre-launch checkout in the Spaceport’s S5 payload preparation facility.
While in Earth orbit, Microscope will provide data on the relative motion of two bodies in permanent free-fall, studying their movement during several months instead of just seconds possible with ground-based testing.
By furthering knowledge of the equivalence principle – which postulates the equality between gravitational mass and inertial mass – the results from Microscope could open new vistas for theories of gravitation.
Microscope is the French acronym for: Microsatellite à traînée compensée pour l’observation du principe d’equivalence (Microsatellite with drag compensation for observation of the equivalence principle). This 300-kg. payload is based on the French CNES space agency’s Myriade series of microsatellites, and is equipped with cold-gas microthrusters capable of compensating for the smallest trajectory perturbations which might otherwise distort the results.
CNES is in charge of developing the full Microscope system and building the satellite. It is providing 90 percent of funding for this mission, serving as prime contractor in charge of the satellite bus development, satellite integration and testing prior to launch. The space agency also is responsible for construction and operation of the mission control center.
Arianespace keeps pace with its goal of 12 launches in 2016
During Arianespace’s April 22 launch of Soyuz, Microscope will be orbited along with the Sentinel-1B observation radar platform for Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program, as well as two very small cubesat passengers: Norway’s first scientific satellite, NORSAT-1; and a payload from ESA’s “Fly Your Satellite!” educational program.
The upcoming Soyuz mission is designated Flight VS14 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, and will be the company’s third performed from Europe’s Spaceport to date in 2016 – following successful Ariane 5 launches on January 27 (carrying Intelsat 29e) and March 9 (with EUTELSAT 65 West A).
Arianespace is targeting as many as 12 flights in 2016 with its complete launcher family, composed of the heavy-lift Ariane 5, medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega.