CASPA-ADM: a mission concept for observing thermospheric mass density

Christian Siemes*, Stephen Maddox, Olivier Carraz, Trevor Cross, Steven George, Jose van den IJssel, Marton Kiss-Toth, Massimiliano Pastena, Pieter Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Cold Atom technology has undergone rapid development in recent years and has been demonstrated in space in the form of cold atom scientific experiments and technology demonstrators, but has so far not been used as the fundamental sensor technology in a science mission. The European Space Agency therefore funded a 7-month project to define the CASPA-ADM mission concept, which serves to demonstrate cold-atom interferometer (CAI) accelerometer technology in space. To make the mission concept useful beyond the technology demonstration, it aims at providing observations of thermosphere mass density in the altitude region of 300–400 km, which is presently not well covered with observations by other missions. The goal for the accuracy of the thermosphere density observations is 1% of the signal, which will enable the study of gas–surface interactions as well as the observation of atmospheric waves. To reach this accuracy, the CAI accelerometer is complemented with a neutral mass spectrometer, ram wind sensor, and a star sensor. The neutral mass spectrometer data is considered valuable on its own since the last measurements of atmospheric composition and temperature in the targeted altitude range date back to 1980s. A multi-frequency GNSS receiver provides not only precise positions, but also thermosphere density observations with a lower resolution along the orbit, which can be used to validate the CAI accelerometer measurements. In this paper, we provide an overview of the mission concept and its objectives, the orbit selection, and derive first requirements for the scientific payload.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-653
Number of pages17
JournalCEAS Space Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Accelerometry
  • Cold-atom interferometry
  • Gas–surface interactions
  • Mass density
  • Mission design
  • Neutral winds
  • Thermosphere


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