In Situ Space Gas Dynamic Measurements by the ROSINA Comet Pressure Sensor COPS on the Rosetta Spacecraft

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Chia-yu Tzou1, Kathrin Altwegg1, Björn Fiethe2, Sébastien Gasc1 and Martin Rubin1, (1)University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland, (2)Technical University of Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany
Rosetta is part of the cornerstone missions executed by the European Space Agency. It is the first space mission to orbit and also land on a comet. Starting in August 2014 Rosetta will be able to carry out a close study of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) is one of the core payloads on board of the Rosetta spacecraft [Balsiger et al, 2007]. ROSINA’s main objective is to determine the major atmospheric and ionospheric composition in the coma and to investigate the gas dynamics around the comet.

ROSINA consists of two mass spectrometers and a pressure sensor. The Comet Pressure Sensor (COPS) includes two gauges: the “nude gauge” measures total neutral density in the coma and the “ram gauge” measures the dynamic pressure of the cometary gas flux to obtain the bulk velocity of the neutral gas. The combination of these two gauges makes COPS capable to derive the gas dynamics at the location of the spacecraft.

We performed laboratory gas dynamic measurements with the identical flight-spare instrument of COPS. Using the Calibration System for The Mass Spectrometer Instrument ROSINA (CASYMIR) we produce neutral gas beams to model cometary gas jets with velocities from thermal up to 2 km/s.

We expect that COPS will be able to detect the faint and expanding atmosphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as early as August 2014 when the comet is still farther than 3 AU from the Sun. We will present the first ROSINA COPS observations of the gas dynamics around the comet together with the corresponding laboratory measurements required for the interpretation of these data.


Balsiger, H. et al.: ROSINA-Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis, Space Science Reviews, Vol. 128, 745-801, 2007.