Travel budget for BepiColombo "Guest Investigation" position

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


I have been appointed as "Guest Investigator" of the BepiColombo mission by the European and Japanese Space Agencies (ESA and JAXA). My main role is to assess the Space Weather in the inner heliosphere during the BepiColombo cruise phase. In this sense, I request to STFC some extra budget to attend the science team meetings and activities related to this position. The University of Leicester is directly involved in the BepiColombo mission, having built and leading the MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer) instrument. However, my tasks involve the use of other instruments especially devoted to Space Weather analysis such as the BERM (Standard Radiation Environment Monitor), SIXS (Solar Intensity X-ray and particle Spectrometer) and the Magnetometer instruments.

In the Guess Investigator role, I will work in close collaboration with the different teams to assess the Space Weather in the inner heliosphere during the BepiColombo cruise. This position provides unique insights for Space Weather monitoring for Mars, as currently we do not have a solar wind monitor at Mars and we rely only on Earth-based observations when both planets are aligned. BepiColombo, however, is providing Space Weather observations during the whole cruise, being ~75% of the time a good monitor for Mars. Therefore, this position is a perfect complement for my actual work that will fully enrich our scientific knowledge of both Space Weather and the Mars' plasma system.

Planned Impact

Our Pathways to Impact Plan has three aims: (1) To create a space technology cluster in the East Midlands which can respond to shifts in the global space sector. (2) To ensure that current links with external research users in industry and the public sector are fostered and new links developed. This includes aligning our Masters level teaching with the needs of the space sector. (3) To build on our successful outreach programme. The applicants involved in this proposal have specialist skills and experience of direct use to external users. The proposed Solar System science provides a strong platform for public engagement, knowledge transfer, and working with industry. Building on our existing heritage of impact, the specialist skills and unique expertise of those involved in this grant proposal will be accessible and identifiable to public, commercial, and government users. The research within this proposal is aligned with the Enterprise Agenda for the University, and our academics are strongly supported to create maximum impact in local, national, and international communities by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the newly-set-up Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation (LISEO), and the University. UoL is developing Space Park Leicester (SPL) to provide an excellent, collaborative new environment for industry, academia and the public. SPL is funded by UoL, Leicestershire Economic Partnership, and Midlands Engine and construction is planned to start in Jan. 2019 close to the National Space Centre (NSC). The applicants are taking leading roles in the planning and delivery of SPL, addressing new challenges for space science by working with industry to develop a facility to lower the cost of access to space by introducing greater automation in spacecraft production, and greatly reduce manufacturing and testing times.
Working with Industrial and Other Partners: Members of our group work productively with many industrial partners including international companies such as Airbus, Teledyne-e2v, and TAS-UK, Lockheed Martin, and smaller entities (SMEs), as well as space agencies, e.g. NASA, ESA, JAXA, and CSA. Our portfolio of collaborative projects with industry has grown in the planetary science domain, particularly in areas associated with sample return missions, planetary protection, Mars science and lunar science. In addition, we are actively working with industry to develop commercial spacecraft for LEO constellations. A new industrial collaboration with the European space nuclear power programme is a result of the confluence of the world class nuclear and space industries in the UK, in which the UoL is a key partner. Partnerships with the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory, and SMEs including European Thermodynamics are part of our impact plan.
Spin-Off Companies and Contracts: The 6 KE Fellowships from STFC and NERC won since 2009 will continue to act as catalysts for our impact, being responsible for one of our spin-off companies, Gamma Technologies. This company has recently increased its secured investment, and is engaged with an industry partner with clinical trials of a pre-commercial device underway. Additional developments for knowledge exchange in the next 3 years will include medical diagnostics and devices including cannula design, ventricular assist pumps, urine and pain monitoring.
Outreach: Our outreach strategy is closely linked to that of the NSC and its 300,000 annual visitors, tying in to major future events e.g. the Planets360 RAS200 event, launch of BepiColombo, James Webb Space Telescope, launch and landing of ExoMars. Group members are on the Board of Trustees and Operating Company, and advise on the regeneration of exhibits e.g. martian meteorites, Gas Giants. The National Space Academy is a University-NSC partnership using outstanding school teachers and UoL researchers to boost teacher effectiveness and enhance STEM uptake.

Note this is based on 2018 Consolidated Grant


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