Space Research Centre

Mission Modelling Unit

The School of Physics & Astronomy's Mission Modelling Unit undertakes a range of activities related to the design of space missions including trajectory analysis, observation planning, investigating the coordinated use of space assets, and a range of other topics concerned with the motion of spacecraft in low Earth orbit and beyond.

The MMU uses tools including the latest version of AGI’s Systems Toolkit, complete with a suite of additional analytical modules for mission analysis and scenario development, along with NASA's SPICE and GMAT codes, and bespoke software.

The outputs from the MMU range from high quality animations for publicity and visualisation purposes, to detailed quantitative information on launch options, instrument configurations and observation opportunities for missions.

The MMU's past and current work includes:

  • A study funded by the US Navy Office of Naval Research, into the feasibility of using commercial satellites to improve the monitoring and safety of vessels at sea.
  • Participation in an ESA-funded study with EADS-Astrium into the design and performance of a novel propulsion system and vehicle for exploration of the planet Mars.
  • An analysis of data from NASA's Mercury MESSENGER spacecraft, identifying the signature of astrophysical sources in X-ray observations of the planet
  • Support for the team developing the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS) for ESA's BepiColombo mission to Mercury
  • Support for the team proposing a UV imager for ESA's mission to Jupiter (JUICE), including identification and simulation of observation opportunities during the mission.
  • Development of animations and other materials to support the teaching of astrodynamics and celestial mechanics

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