Feature

Space research

Published on 10 June 2021

Our space research dates back to breakthroughs in aerospace engineering and space technology, such as R&D taken forward by our spinout company STAR-Dundee, which specialises in spacecraft on-board data-handling and processing technologies.

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Our space research dates back to breakthroughs in aerospace engineering and space technology, such as R&D taken forward by our spinout company STAR-Dundee, which specialises in spacecraft on-board data-handling and processing technologies. It includes long-term developments, like the Planet and Asteroid Natural scene Generation Utility (PANGU) simulation tool to support navigation and space missions, SpaceFibre technical standard for future space missions, and our strategic collaboration with CERN.

PANGU

PANGU is a software package that generates realistic, synthetic images of planetary surfaces, asteroids, spacecraft and surface rovers to test and develop autonomous navigation, guidance, approach and landing technologies. Developed with funding from the European Space Agency (ESA), it is an essential, official, validated tool for core work performed in the Guidance Navigation and Control Section of ESA for space missions, and widely used by space agencies and industry in Europe, Asia and the USA as a flexible cost-effective alternative to physical generation of test images with laboratory robotic camera systems or flight tests on Earth.

“Space images of celestial objects, especially those with the right resolution and radiometric properties to allow their use in spacecraft navigation and those of little-known objects, are a rare resource, hence the flexibility of PANGU to artificially generate high-fidelity images provides a key benefit in reducing the cost of generating test images and enabling rapid prototyping of vision-based navigation solutions in real-time closed-loop test facilities.”

Massimo Casasco, Head of ESA’s Guidance Navigation and Control Section (TEC-SAG), ESTEC

SpaceFibre

SpaceFibre is the next generation data-handling network for on-board spacecraft, following SpaceWire, which is used today on many commercial telecommunication, global-positioning, weather, environmental-monitoring, scientific and exploration space missions. The valuable data gathered by these missions are collected by SpaceWire on-board the aircraft. Both were developed by the University’s Prof Steve Parkes, now full-time CTO of STAR-Dundee.

CERN

Our pioneering laser technology will impact on the next major upgrade of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and enhance its capabilities to research the fundamental structure of the Universe. At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, scientists use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are accelerated in the 27 km LHC that runs underneath the French-Swiss border to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.

Prof Amin Abdolvand’s collaboration with CERN - supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and CERN - is addressing one of the fundamental limitations of the LHC: the ‘electron cloud’ of negative particles which can form in the vacuum of the LHC and act as an interference with the circulating proton beam. The solution, LESS (Laser Engineered Surface Structures), reformulates the surface of metals, in this case the LHC metal tube, to enable it to trap electrons and keep the LHC clear of the ‘electron cloud’. LESS technology has efficiency and economy impact.

“Looking into the future and beyond the current impact, the LESS technology will find direct implementation in the Future Circular Collider study at CERN. In fact, the LESS solution could be easily integrated in the design of future high-intensity proton accelerators across the world owing to the scalability of the technology to kilometre-long beam lines. ”

Dr Oliver Brüning, CERN ATS-DO, HL-LHC Project Leader

We are the only Scottish university to have an educational partnership with the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) Collaboration at CERN, based on our expertise in materials engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and computing. Our collaboration is focused on developing technology which could have widespread implications for high electro-magnetic field environments, where breakdown limitations are of particular concern, such as for sensor systems and applications in satellite and aerospace technologies.

Enquiries

For further information or to engage with our research, please contact:

research@dundee.ac.uk

Story category Research