Dr Steven Sembay from Leicester University gave us an insight into what is involved in bringing a space mission from first concept and inception to final realisation.  He talked us through each stage and the staggering truth is that it takes a long time!!!  The proposal itself involves, amongst other things, costings and most importantly, who will make the component parts.  The UK government has a budget which will fund projects.  Much of the building of components has to be done by UK industry.

Steven is involved in a project called SMILE.  It is a joint UK-China proposal which eventually got selected by ESA in 2015.

SMILE (Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer)

SMILE will use a new scientific technique to provide a fuller understanding of the Sun-Earth connection. It will deliver global 3D imaging of the Earth’s magnetosphere for the first time, and investigate its dynamic response to the impact of solar wind.  Steven had read our website and was aware we had a talk recently on solar wind so we were able to understand a little of what Smile involves”.

It was not until March of 2019 that member states of ESA voted to formally adopt SMILE.  ESA takes care of the Launch – it has given a date of November 2023. In the meantime, Steven is involved with the Soft X-Ray Imager (SXI).  He is the Principal Investigator and leads the European consortium building the SXI instrument with contributions from partners, including amongst others, Spain, Norway, and Switzerland. Leicester UNI lead the overall telescope optics using something called the “lobster-eye” micropore technology which he explained briefly.

His talk was interesting and informative and members had a few questions for him, during and after the talk.

I compiled this report with the help of the UK Space Agency website and would recommend you take a look.  You will find a fuller picture than the one I have outlined above.

Marilyn Bentley