AMS experiment embarks on first leg of mission into space

Geneva, 12 February 2010. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) left CERN1 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 spectrometer’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 superconducting magnet, 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 vacuum 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 CERN, where the detector control centre will be located, and a number of regional physics analysis centres set up by the collaborating institutes.

AMS Experiment Participating Institutes

Country

Institute

China

National Laboratory for Aeronautics and Astronautics (NLAA)

China

Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE), Chinese Academy of Sciences

China

Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP), Chinese Academy of Sciences

China

Shandong University (SDU)

China

Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU)

China

Southeast University (SEU)

China

Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU)

Denmark

University of Aarhus

Finland

Helsinki University of Technology, Metsahovi Radio Observatory

Finland

University of Turku, Space Research Laboratory

France

Groupe d'Astroparticules de Montpellier (IN2P3), Universite Montpellier II

France

Laboratoire d'Annecy-Le-Vieux de Physique des Particules

France

Laboratoire de Physique Subatomique et de Cosmologie (LPSC)

Germany

I. Physikalisches Institut, RWTH Aachen

Germany

Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik

Germany

University of Karlsruhe, Institute for Experimental Nuclear Physics

Italy

Center for Advanced Research in Space Optics, University of Trieste

Italy

Istituto di Ricerca sulle Onde Elettromagnetiche (IROE)

Italy

University of Bologna and INFN-Sezione di Bologna

Italy

University of Milano and INFN-Sezione di Milano

Italy

University of Perugia and INFN-Sezione di Perugia

Italy

University of Pisa and INFN-Sezione di Pisa

Italy

University of Roma "La Sapienza" and INFN-Sezione di Roma

Italy

University of Siena and INFN-Sezione di Siena

Italy

Agenzia Spaziale Italiana

Korea

EWHA Women's University

Korea

Kyungpook National University

Mexico

Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)

Netherlands

European Space Agency, European Space and Technology Centre ESTEC

Netherlands

National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR)

Netherlands

National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics (NIKHEF)

Portugal

Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics

Romania

University of Bucharest

Russia

Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP)

Russia

Russian Research Centre, Kurchatov Institute

Russia

Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics, Moscow State University

Spain

Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT)

Spain

Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias

Switzerland

ETH-Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Labor für Hochenergiephysik

Switzerland

Université de Genève, D.P.N.C.

China (Taipei)

Academia Sinica, Institute of Physics

China (Taipei)

Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST)

China (Taipei)

National Central University

China (Taipei)

National Cheng Kung University

China (Taipei)

National Chiao Tung University

China (Taipei)

National Space Program Office (NSPO)

USA

Florida A&M University

USA

Florida State University

USA

Johns Hopkins University

USA

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

USA

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

USA

NASA Johnson Space Center

USA

University of Maryland, Department of Physics

USA

University of Maryland, East-West Space Science Center

USA

Texas A&M University, College Station

USA

Yale University, Department of Physics

 

Footnote(s)

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Romania is a candidate for accession. Israel is an Associate Member in the pre-stage to Membership. India, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

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