Technology demonstrators

CERN is actively involved in the development and qualification of technologies with proven or potential aerospace applications. The main technical fields where strong synergies have so far been identified and are being explored are:

  • Radiation modelling, monitoring, shielding and testing
  • Microelectronics design, development and characterisation
  • Thermal management (advanced materials with extreme thermal conductivity properties, cryogenic systems, micro-channel and micro heat pipe technologies)
  • High power microwave phenomena (including RF breakdown and multipactor effects)
  • Vacuum technology and surface science
  • Detectors and space instrumentation technologies
  • Microtechnologies (sensors and actuators)
  • Big data acquisition, distribution, analysis and storage
  • Technologies for safety

Some significant examples:

Timepix detector

Timepix is an example of a CERN technology with significant and diversified in-flight experience. It is a position-sensitive semiconductor detector of the Medipix family that provides high sensitivity (single-particle/quantum counting), wide-dynamic range, high spatial resolution, noiseless (dark-current free) detection and extended functionality at the level of the per-pixel integrated electronic chain. Equipped with a 300 μm thick silicon sensor, Timepix is sensitive to X-rays (highest efficiency in the range 5–12 keV) and charged particles (100% detection efficiency), with a detection threshold of ~4 keV. Thanks to these technical characteristics, Timepix is very well suited for detection and track visualisation of radiation and cosmic rays in open space and for astronaut dosimetry. Several space programs/missions have contributed to test the Timepix performance in space, specifically: the PROBA-V technology demonstrator satellite, the Orion spacecraft test flight, the LUCID payload on TechDemoSat-1, as well as direct use on the ISS.

CELESTA CubeSat Demonstrator

CELESTA (CERN Latchup Experiment Student sAtellite) will be the first CERN-driven microsatellite, developed in collaboration with the University of Montpellier.

The project, supported through the KT Fund, has two main objectives: one is developing and flying a space version of CERN radiation monitor (RadMon) coupled with a single event latch-up experiment; the second is showing that the space radiation environment of Low Earth Orbit can be reproduced in the CHARM facility.

Currently in advanced phase A, the CubeSat is planned to be ready for launch in mid-2021.