Launched in 2003 - still active
SPICAM is a space instrument onboard of ESA's mission Mars-Express, which has been orbiting around Mars since 2003. SPICAM has been observing since then and is still operating now. The instrument was partly built here at IASB-BIRA, in collaboration with the LATMOS (France) and IKI (Russia). It is a double spectrometer composed of an ultraviolet (UV) and a near-infrared (NIR) channel.
The UV channel is mainly used to measure Ozone, CO2, and O2 and the NIR channel is used to study water vapor, CO2 and O2. Other components/parameters can be estimated by analysing SPICAM data such as pressure, temperature, aerosol's loading (dust or clouds), surface properties, etc. SPICAM is able to work with different viewing mode, which are Nadir, Limb and solar/stellar occultation. These different viewing modes allow different types of results. For exemple, nadir gives good spatial coverage of the planet and is used to obtain mappings of the studied quantities. Limb or occultations do not have such a good spatial resolution but have the advantage to investigate the atmosphere at different altitudes.
We are developing at IASB-BIRA a retrieval algorithm in order to analyse the nadir UV data of SPICAM. The goal is to deduce the quantities of Ozone, aerosol's loading and surface albedo. We will obtain maps giving the evolution of these quantities over the period of SPICAM activity. We will also attempt to derive some optical properties of dust in the UV range. The developement of this retrieval program is also a preparation for the future missions. We will be ready to analyse data of the IASB-BIRA instrument's NOMAD which will be part of the future Trace Gas Orbiter mission.
Missions to Mars: Mars Express
The Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) has years of experience in the development of both theoretical models and instruments for on-board space missions to study planetary atmospheres.
This is why the SPICAM-Light experiment, an international project with contribution from the institute, was chosen for the Mars Express mission. The Mars Express satellite was launched on the 2nd June 2003 with a planned operational lifetime of 1 Martian year. It is still working today.