Science News

Overview - Deep Space Gateway

Juan C. Vallejo 23.12.2017

Overview - Deep Space Gateway

 Proposal for using future Deep Space Gateway to deploy a cubesat UV Telescope

In August 2017, the European Space Agency (ESA) issued a Call for Ideas for Research Opportunities on the Deep Space Gateway. Different responses to this Call were presented and discussed at a workshop held at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, on 5 and 6 December 2017.

The Deep Space Gateway is an initiative led by the current International Space Station partners: ESA, NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, and CSA. It will be a crewed spaceship in lunar vicinity, being operated  during the 2020s. The environment found in the vicinity of the Moon is representative of deep space, and first-class research can be done in this area. In addition, the gateway could be an enabling infrastructure for human and robotic missions that access the lunar surface and return samples and eventually people to Earth. More information can be found in ESA - exploration of the Moon.

Some of the presented works focused on the UV research that can be done from the vantage point of the Gateway. Signs of water were seen in both infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopic measurements using NASA LCROSS, and the exact origin of water in the lunar interior is still a big question. Some proposals discussed during the sessions  aimed to extend these measurements, such as the L-DART project. Other ideas focused on how to better understand the involved lunar processes by analysing the transport of a volatile through samples of soil simulates. Some other projects were devoted to observe the Earth as an exoplanet, such as LOUPE. 

The AEGORA team presented a proposal for using the Deep Space Gateway for UV exploration. This proposal is based on the deployment of a UV telescope integrated inside a 8U cubesat.  The project aims to determine the distribution of neutral gas in the Earth exosphere and to observe the surface of the moon in UV range, sharing many synergies with other ongoing UV projects, such as WSO-UV mission or studies for UV facilities such as LUVOIR/POLLUX or CETUS.

This cubesat-bsased UV telescope may observe the Earth as an exoplanet (UV observations of atmosphere), aiming to understand the physical processes driving the formation and evolution of planet exospheres and magnetospheres. This telescope may also detect extended features against the heliospheric ultraviolet background: comets, dust clouds and HI filaments. Finally, the UV telescope may measure variations of surface ice and frost in the moon polar regions (as well as presence of dust clouds and plumes) through differential measurements of the Ly-alpha emission variability.