Automated Calibration System
VenusExpress is the first mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) for the research of Venus. The engineers of KFKI RMKI and SGF Ltd. have developed an automated calibration system for the ASPERA-4 (Analyzer of Space Plasma and EneRgetic Atoms) experiment. This distributed intelligence data acquisition system has a real-time operating system running on PC/104 type processor boards, and the user interface program runs under Windows XP on a portable computer. A specific feature of the system is the high voltage protection and galvanic isolation of the components.

Research of Venus had been done by Russian and American space probes in the past. Most knowledge was provided by the Magellan space probe of NASA. ESA uses in VenusExpress main parts of the MarsExpress space probe but with significant modifications coming from the differences between the two tasks and environments. Most important modifications were the reconstruction of the heat protection system and the use of radhard electronics owing to the four times bigger radiation.

VenusExpress was launched in November 2005 from Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan with a Soiuz-Fregat rocket. The fly-over took 153 days, and the orbit was located above the poles of Venus with 250 km as the nearest and 66000 km as the farthest point from the planet. The investigation lasted 500 Earth days, i.e. 2 Venus days.

Researchers of KFKI RMKI and engineers of SGF Co. Ltd. took part in the ASPERA-4 experiment, and have provided new information about the coupling of plasma and neutral gases around Venus. This information was quite relevant for understanding plasma processes and mass balance, and for the research of  upper atmosphere, the ionosphere and planet development. ASPERA-4 is an interdisciplinary experiment in the research of planets and space plasma physics.

Engineers had to ensure the calibration of ASPERA-4 which is absolutely mandatory for the right evaluation of measurements at Venus. This was done by an automated calibration system set up at the particle accelerator in Institutet för RymdFysik (IRF), Kiruna, Sweden. The system serves for calibrating the ASPERA-4 sensors with the ion source, and its automation significantly accelerated calibration measurements and also made them reproducible.

The realized calibration system was installed in the spring of 2005 together with IRF engineers. The distributed intelligence system is built of PC/104 type processor boards that communicate with a portable computer through TCP/IP protocol. These Intel-compatible processors are driven with a Linux-based real-time multi-tasking operating system while Windows XP runs on the portable computer.


26.December 2014

High Voltage

High Volatage
isolated measurement

Embedded  processor

Embedded processor
in the High Volatage

Goniometer control

Turn-table control