The Daedalus mission has been proposed to the European Space Agency (ESA) in response to the call for ideas for the Earth Observation programme’s 10th Earth Explorer. It was selected in 2018 as one of three candidates for a Phase-0 feasibility study.
Daedalus, a low-flying spacecraft for the exploration of the Lower Thermosphere-Ionosphere (LTI), shall quantify key electrodynamics processes that determine the energetics, dynamics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere, “gateway” between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. The mission design shall allow Daedalus to break through the current spacecraft exploration “barrier” of 150 km and access electrodynamics processes at lower altitudes. Daedalus will perform in-situ measurements of plasma density and temperature, ion drift, neutral density and wind, ion and neutral composition, electric and magnetic fields, and of energetic particles. These observables cover all the parameters in play when exploring ion-neutral interactions in the LTI.
This animation shows a a representation of the Daedalus orbit on the left and on the right a representation of its measurements from the Daedalus scene generation module, based on the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIE-GCM).
In line with ESA’s Living Planet Programme, Daedalus constitutes an ambitious programme covering a wide range of observations and measurements that are needed to resolve key energy balance issues in one of the most under-sampled regions of the Earth’s environment: the Lower Thermosphere and Ionosphere.