One of the instruments to be integrated in a new ESA Exobiology Facility is an ultraviolet-visible spectrometer. An on-orbit demonstration of this spectrometer in the internal environment of the ICE Cubes facility to test its critical features and its fibre-optic switch could help refine the final product and was the scope of this in-orbit validation space mission that took place in mid-2019.
Exobiology is the study of life in space. Bacteria, seeds, lichens, algae and even water bears have been exposed to space and researchers have shown that life can survive spaceflight.
ESA is looking to bring a next level Exobiology facility to the Bartolomeo platform outside the European Columbus module on the Space Station. The Exobiology facility, which can host up to seven different experiments, will retain the unique features of the ISS, such as long-term exposure and sample return capability.
A key non-invasive method to analyze samples in-situ is the ultraviolet-visible (UV/VIS) spectroscopy. Hence one of the instruments to be integrated in that future Exobiology Facility is an ultraviolet-visible spectrometer. A precursor in-orbit validation of this spectrometer to test its critical features and its fibre-optic switch could help refine the final product.
This ultraviolet-visible spectrometer was developed on behalf of ESA by OHB System AG, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, in cooperation with the US company Ocean Optics. The mission operations tested for 75 days in autonomous mode and data was made directly available to the operational centre located at OHB’s Human Spaceflight department in Bremen.
As such a facility as ICE Cubes internal to the International Space Station can allow for precursor in-orbit validation of an instrument intended for external exobiology research.