The Asim Space Observatory has been successfully launched into space and is now heading toward the International Space Station (ISS). While this is an international project by the European Space Agency, the mission is being led by Denmark and its National Space Institute (DTU Space), Danish Radio reported.
After its successful launch, the Asim Space Observatory will begin its scientific quest to photograph and gather more data on violent thunderstorms that appear up to 100 kilometers above the ground and rare light phenomena sometimes referred to as "red fairies," "blue jets," and "elves," including measuring their radiation. According to Terma deputy director Carsten Jørgensen, this light phenomenon cannot be explained either mathematically or physically at present. However, there is a strong presumption that it has an impact on climate change.
The Asim Space Observatory was launched with the help of an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in collaboration with SpaceX. For Denmark's part, the 314-kilogram heavy observatory is the culmination of two decades of work by Danish researchers. The scientific foundation of the project was laid by the DTU Space, whereas the Danish company Terma led the technical part. The total cost of the project amounted to over DKK 300 million ($50 million). Other major partners include the University of Valencia in Spain, and the University of Bergen in Norway.
"The top module called Dragon will be launched into space and dock with the ISS. When this happens on Friday April 13, our equipment, Asim, will be taken out of this Dragon module and located at the space station. And then our mission begins," Carsten Jørgensen told Danish Radio.
Today is the day! Less than 12 hours to go for the launch of @SpaceX's #Dragon spacecraft 🚀 ASIM, aka the #SpaceStormHunter, will be on its way to the #Space_Station at 22.30 CEST. More than 100 experts from eight countries contributed to the project pic.twitter.com/WHOvKhKL8X— Human Spaceflight (@esaspaceflight) April 2, 2018
With no clouds in the way, the hope is to gain important knowledge about the mechanisms behind the natural phenomena and their impact, DTU Space research director Torsten Neubart, who devised this idea about two decades ago, explained.
"Imagine a textbook in anatomy, where you have a picture of a naked person, which you can pry open and see the lungs and the blood circuit. This is how we can also look into the lightning phenomena and see how they look inside. That is, our instruments have a better chance of following," Neubart explained to Danish Radio.
The Asim Space Observatory is seen as a continuation of the Ørsted satellite that was launched about 20 years ago and previously had the distinction of being Denmark's largest and most expensive space mission.
"We in Denmark are the first to make top-class instruments to look at these things, so we expect it we will get us into the super league," Neubert explained.