AMS experiment embarks on first leg of mission into space

Feb 12, 2010

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) left CERN this morning on the first leg of its journey to the International Space Station (ISS). A special convoy carrying the experiment is due to arrive at the European Space Agency’s research and technology centre, ESTEC, at Noordwijk in the Netherlands in six days time. Once there, the detector will undergo testing of its ability to survive a shuttle lift-off and to operate in space. Twenty members of the AMS collaboration will accompany the detector on its journey.

Construction of the AMS detector components was carried out by an international team with significant contributions from CERN Member States France, Germany, Italy, Portugal Spain and Switzerland, as well as China, China (Taipei) and the USA. Assembly was carried out at CERN with help from the Laboratory’s engineering services. From 4 February until Tuesday morning, the detector was put through its paces using a test beam from the Super Proton Synchrotron accelerator.

This was the first of a series of tests on the fully assembled detector and it gave excellent results, demonstrating AMS’s ability to work as a coherent whole once it reaches space. A beam of primary protons from the SPS was used to check the detector’s momentum resolution, and it qualified the ’s ability to measure particle curvature and momentum. AMS’s ability to distinguish electrons from protons was also tested. This is very important for the measurement of cosmic rays, 90% of which are protons and constitute a natural background for other signals that AMS scientists are interested in. AMS will be looking for an abundance of positrons and electrons from space, one of the possible markers for dark matter.

Once at ESTEC, AMS will be placed in ESA’s thermo vacuum room that simulates space vacuum to test the detector’s capacity of exchanging heat and thus maintain its thermal balance, which is essential for the functioning of the detector’s electronics and especially of its unique , which is the first of its kind to be launched into space.

“This is a very important milestone for AMS, as it’s the first time that it is going to be tested in vacuum. After the test, AMS may come back to CERN for a final check and then it’s off to the Kennedy Space Center for launch,” said the experiment’s Nobel-prize winning spokesman, Professor Sam Ting. “The contribution of CERN has been crucial. Without the work of CERN’s accelerator, magnet and groups we wouldn’t be at this stage here today.”

AMS will leave ESTEC towards the end of May aboard a special US Air Force flight to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Lift-off aboard the space shuttle Discovery is scheduled for July. Once docked to the ISS, AMS will examine fundamental issues about matter and the origin and structure of the Universe directly from space. Its main scientific target is the search for dark matter and antimatter in a programme that is complementary to that of the Large Hadron Collider. AMS data from space will be transmitted from the ISS to Houston, USA, and on to , where the detector control centre will be located, and a number of regional physics analysis centres set up by the collaborating institutes.

Explore further: NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

In Search of Antimatter Galaxies

Aug 17, 2009

NASA's space shuttle program is winding down. With only about half a dozen more flights, shuttle crews will put the finishing touches on the International Space Station (ISS), bringing to an end twelve years ...

'Exciting' project may not get to space

Dec 02, 2007

The upcoming launch of a laboratory to the International Space Station has been clouded by NASA's failure to deliver a device to study the universe's origins.

CMS celebrates the lowering of its final detector element

Jan 22, 2008

In the early hours of the morning the final element of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector began the descent into its underground experimental cavern in preparation for the start-up of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider ...

Large Hadron Collider: VELO -- in you go!

Nov 12, 2007

One of the most fragile detectors for the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment has been successfully installed in its final position. LHCb is one of four large experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), ...

NASA gets ready for another space mission

Mar 31, 2008

Now that the latest space shuttle Endeavour mission is completed, the U.S. space agency said it's preparing for the May launch of space shuttle Discovery.

Recommended for you

NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

4 hours ago

Setting up NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's secondary mirror in space will require special arms that resemble a tripod. NASA recently demonstrated that test in a NASA cleanroom and it was documented in ...

Iridium flares captured in real time by astrophotographer

12 hours ago

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation ...

Is Phobos doomed?

13 hours ago

"All these worlds are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there."

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.