Month: December 2013

Experiment Description

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So what is the SCRAP Experiment really about? Well, let us try to do a reasonable summary of the experiment and the REXUS/BEXUS programme.

The title SCRAP stands for “Scattering of Radar waves on Aerosols in Plasmas”. The short description is:

“SCRAP is a student experiment, part of the REXUS programme under DLR and SNSB, and studies electron density fluctuations in dusty mesospheric plasmas.”

…but maybe that doesn’t really give you that much information.

Let’s give a longer description as well (That can also be found on our Facebook page

“The scientific objective of SCRAP is the validation of the theories on electron density fluctuations in dusty plasmas by measuring the scattering of ultra-high frequency radio waves on a cloud of metallic microparticles spread in the mesospheric plasma. These theories are often used as a basis to reconstruct the characteristics of mesospheric aerosols (mainly particle size, charge and number density) from indirect measurements, such as electron and ion density fluctuations obtained from radar and optical observations, or mass spectrometry.

These indirect methods are unavoidable, since the actual collection and preservation of mesospheric particles is subject to the technical difficulty to perform experiments in the mesosphere and a high risk of contamination. By using the ground-based incoherent scatter radar system EISCAT to observe a cloud of calibrated mesospheric dust particles, the SCRAP experiment proposes to relate theoretical predictions to a controlled object. The results would also provide a new insight on phenomena such as polar mesospheric summer echoes, anomalous radar echoes which are thought to be caused by mesospheric clouds of ice particles.”

If you feel even more confused by the explanation above, just keep reading. It should become clearer as you continue reading.

We are a team of 11 KTH students and PHD’s with academic supervisors from both KTH (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan) and SU (Stockholm University). The idea was born by Dr. Nickolay Ivchenko of the Department of Space & Plasma Physics at the School of Electrical Engineering, KTH, in collaboration with Dr. Gunnar Tibert of the Department of Mechanics at the School of Engineering Sciences, KTH.

Trying to avoid too many of the irrelevant details you could simply say that what we want to do is to measure the radar backscatter from a cloud of well-defined (size, material etc.) aerosol particles released in the mesosphere (the part of the atmosphere at altitude around 50 to 100 km) and compare to the theoretical predictions derived from current models.

A picture representing the radar backscatter from PMSE

An example of effects of micro particles in the mesosphere are the so called “Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes (PMSE)” that are believed to be caused by ice particles forming in the upper atmosphere which get charged by the radiation from the sun. This causes the radar backscattering (e.g. echoes, the radar waves bouncing back to the transmitter) that can be observed, especially during summer, and especially around the polar caps. That explains the name “Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes”. The increasingly frequent PMSE’s are believed to be an indicator of the global climate change, meaning that a proper understanding of this phenomenon could be most beneficial for predictions about the global climate. Many models exist to predict how this phenomena works, but experimental data is limited. That is what the SCRAP experiment aims to change.

Approximate Event Timeline
Approximate Event Timeline
FFU ejection from the upper part of the rocket
FFU ejection from the upper part of the rocket
EISCAT Radar at Tromsø

The experiment will deploy two identical free flying units or FFU’s (essentially two discs launched in either direction from the rocket) from the rocket module. The units will release metal dust close to the apogee (highest point, roughly at around 80-90 km) of the rocket. Two alternative methods for the release of the dust are being investigated. The first method is to spray liquid suspension of the metal dust through a nozzle (like an aerosol can). The second method is to spread the metal dust using gun powder.

When the metal particles are released in the mesosphere the EISCAT radar (see for more info) in Tromsø, Norway will aim its mighty beam at the cloud and send a powerful signal (more than 2 MW of peak power! ) that bounces back (backscatters) from the charged particles. By measuring this backscatter, analyzing the data, comparing with theoretical models and doing other sciency stuff the team will be able to validate (or potentially falsify) the current models on mesospheric aerosols.

Measure of the radar backscatter approximately at rocket apogee
Measure of the radar backscatter approximately at rocket apogee

But in order to do all this we need a rocket to fly on, and that’s where the REXUS/BEXUS programme comes in to the picture.

The REXUS/BEXUS programme is realized under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB), now in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). The programme gives a few different student teams from ESA member countries the opportunity to launch their rocket experiment on a REXUS sounding rocket or a BEXUS high altitude balloon from Esrange in Kiruna. If all goes as planned, the SCRAP experiment will fly with the Swedish REXUS rocket, an unguided, spin-stabilized rocket powered by an Improved Orion Motor, in the spring of 2015. For more information on the REXUS/BEXUS programme see

The experiment is currently in a “Design & Research” phase and, as is written above, several different concepts for the dust release system are being explored. In February the team will hand in the first version of the “Student Experiment Document” and by then the preliminary design will be set.

The SCRAP experiment is now official!

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So it might be a good idea to share with you the very recent developments for the REXUS SCRAP experiment, namely that we are now SELECTED! Out of the 9 presentations during the selection workshop (and of course out of the several other experiments that didn’t even make it that far) we proved ourselves to be one of the 4 best. Good job to everyone in the SCRAP team:

An (old) team picture of the SCRAP team.

Nicola Schlatter,
Alexander Karlsson,
Antonio Gurciullo,
Hannes Lindström,
Ladislas Vignitchouk‎,
Lucas Mascagni,
Marcus Winroth,
Matteo Crimella,
Rasmus Bergström,
Simon Westerlund
and Team Leader Hannah Lindberg.

Here’s hoping for an interesting 2 years ahead, including both hard work, but also success and team spirit.

SCRAP team

Selection workshop completed, and a lot of other stuff.

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Thursday 5 December

08:00 – 08:30 Bus from Hotel to ESTEC
08:30 – 08:40 Organisational announcements
08:40 – 09:20 REXUS Proposal 3: FELDs
09:20 – 10:00 REXUS Proposal 4: Gekko-R
10:00 – 10:40 REXUS Proposal 5: HYPER LANDERS
10:40 – 11:00 Coffee break
11:00 – 11:40 REXUS Proposal 6: PHOS
11:40 – 12:20 REXUS Proposal 7: REM-RED
12:20 – 13:00 REXUS Proposal 8: SCRAP
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 – 14:40 REXUS Proposal 9: WUSAT-SOLSPEC
14:40 – 14:50 REXUS/BEXUS TeamSite – Simon Mawn (ZARM)
14:50 – 15:05 Student Training Week and PDRs at SSC Esrange Space Center – Alexander Kinnaird (SSC)
15:05 – 15:25 Preparing for PDR – Steps to a Successful Review – Nora Newie (ESA)
15:25 – 15:30 Conclusions and last remarks – Natacha Callens (ESA)
15:45 Bus from ESTEC hotel (drop-off only) and Schiphol airport
15:45 – 17:45 Meeting of Selection Board to review REXUS proposals – Aj019

So finally we have some time to update our social medias, which does feel rather relevant at the moment, seeming as the selection workshop has come to its end and the SCRAP team has already held their presentation some time ago. Anyway, the presentation left the team feeling positive. The team was able to give a stable presentation and also answer all panels questions in a convincing manner. Now it’s up to the panel and all the team can do is wait and keep working.

The time after the presentation left the SCRAP team somewhat shaken however. Seeming as this blog is (after all) a blog mostly for updates regarding the experiment the description of the events following the presentation will be somewhat summarized. Due to the storm (which we had a very close encounter with, almost leading to the loss of one of the member’s luggage) the flight to Stockholm got cancelled leaving the team stranded in Amsterdam. Finding a decent and inexpensive hotel in Amsterdam during a weekend is somewhat of a challenge however, as the team soon learnt. I wouldn’t want to tell you the strange places we’ve stayed at these last few days. As it seems now we will not be returning to Sweden until Sunday afternoon, and I sure do hope nothing will go wrong this time.

A stormy evening in Holland, in more ways than one.
A stormy evening in Holland, in more ways than one.

SCRAP team

At least we aren’t dead…

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Sorry for the lack of updates, but currently the SCRAP team is in a crap situation. We’ll keep you posted, if we survive…

Thanks to Birgitta Karlsson for saving us. Without you the SCRAP experiment would never take place, because we’d all be stuck in low standard hostels in Amsterdam forever.

SCRAP team

Second day at ESTEC complete

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Wednesday 4 December

08:00 – 08:30     Bus from Hotel to ESTEC

08:15 – 08:30     Meeting of Selection Board

08:40 – 08:50     Introduction of the Selection Board

08:50 – 09:20     Organisers of the REXUS/BEXUS Programme – Kristine Dannenberg (on behalf of SNSB, DLR, SSC, ZARM, ESA)

09:20 – 09:50     Introduction to SSC Science Services, ESRANGE and REXUS/BEXUS –Alexander Kinnaird and Christian Lockowandt (SSC)

09:50– 10:30      BEXUS Proposal 1: A5-Unibo

10:30 – 11:00     Coffee break

11:00 – 11:40     BEXUS Proposal 2: CzechTechSat

11:40 – 12:20     BEXUS Proposal 3: GranaSAT

12:20 – 13:00     BEXUS Proposal 4: POLARIS

13:00 – 14:00     Lunch break

14:00 – 14:40     BEXUS Proposal 5: TORMES 2.0

14:40 – 15:20     REXUS Proposal 1: APROPOS: PHAROS

15.20 – 16.00     REXUS Proposal 2: ASYN-G

16:00 – 16:15     Walk to the Erasmus Building

16:15 – 17:15     Tour: Erasmus User Centre for the International Space Station

  • 3 groups on rotation

17:20                  Bus from ESTEC to Hotel


Our electronics expert has already found flaws which needs improvement in the inferior design of the Columbus Space Laboratory.
Mustn’t poke, but I just have to!
“Spaceship”. At least I thought it was funny….

Second day at ESTEC complete, but we (the SCRAP team) didn’t really do much. Today was the first day of proposal presentations, but mostly only BEXUS proposals. There were two REXUS proposals at the end though which means that we now know some of the biggest pitfalls for our presentation tomorrow. That’s one of the advantages of presenting second last 😉 After all the proposal presentations were done we did have time for some fun however during the tour of ESTEC. We got to see many interesting pieces of old space hardware that we could “investigate” (read: poke at). Time to  do a spurt for the presentation tomorrow. Double checks, final revisions and final rehearsals, and then it’s just up to fate. Wish us luck!

First day at ESTEC complete

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REXUS / BEXUS Selection Workshop

3-5 December 2013

ESA-ESTEC, Room Newton 1


Tuesday 3 December (Training afternoon)

Morning             Arrival and Registration

13:30 – 14:15     Welcome and Introduction – Natacha Callen

14:15 – 15:30     Start Documenting a Space Project – Requirements & Verification – Koen Debeule

15:30 – 15:45     Coffee break

15:45 – 16:30     Planning your Project – Natacha Callens

16:30 – 17:30     Designing your Experiment – Koen Debeule

17:30 – 18:00     The Student Experiment Documentation (SED) – Nora Newie

18:00         Bus from ESTEC to Hotel

So, first day at ESTEC complete with presentations held by a trio of interesting speakers talking about everything between project organization and mechanics. Koen Debeule gave us an interesting insight into the reality of ESA Space projects.  Now that we know everything we’ve done wrong it’s time to start over and correct all the mistakes in the presentation. SCRAP team pulling an all-nighter and hopefully standing strong until Thursday evening. 😉

Magic drink of happiness…

First day at ESTEC

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Good morning SCRAP team. Ready and awake (mostly) for the first day at ESTEC.                                            1469901_775967542420265_1277560754_n