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The New Horizons spacecraft carries the PEPSSI instrument, a spectrometer designed to detect electrons and ions in the 30 keV – 1 MeV energy range. One of the aims of the PEPSSI team (located at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory) is to study the interaction between the Pluto system and the solar wind by detecting neutral particles from Pluto’s atmosphere that are ionized by the Sun’s light and then picked up and accelerated by the electromagnetic field of the ~1.5 million km/hour solar wind. A total of 54 Mirion detectors are flying on three different missions!
Launched in on Oct. 15, 1997, Cassini's mission to explore Saturn ended on Sept. 15, 2017 with a deliberate plunge into Saturn's atmosphere. The spacecraft collected and transmitted data until the very last seconds of the mission.
Mirion Technologies supplied the custom design PIPS detectors integrated in the MIMI LEMMS and CHEMS sensors. They detected energetic charged particles (protons, electrons, ions) in the excited gas, or plasma, around Saturn.
The Low-Energy Magnetospheric Measurement System, known as LEMMS, measured the number of electrons, protons and ions that struck its detectors, as well as how fast they were traveling and what directions they were coming from.
The Charge-Energy-Mass Spectrometer, called CHEMS, measured the charge and composition of the particles that struck its detectors. Each particle’s mass tells scientists what element it is, for example, whether it's a proton or a “water group” ion such as H2O+.
Besides presence in this spacecraft, PIPS detectors are deployed on the following current or recent missions; STEREO and DOUBLE STAR studying solar storms, MESSENGER studied Mercury, NEW HORIZONS (passed Pluto to outer space in a second extended mission), MSL RAD exploring Mars, JUNO exploring Jupiter...
“I was extremely happy working with this team. In our initial design we frequently met by phone and worked through different options. They provided excellent suggestions, and together we came up with the best solution. They were available to meet with very little notice, had excellent technical expertise, and kept the effort moving on or ahead of schedule.“