During the period of 2015-2017 I was part of a REXUS/BEXUS project called SALACIA dedicated to examine the possibilities of examining brines on Mars. The REXUS/BEXUS programme is realised under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB). The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through a collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). SALACIA was a REXUS project and was launched on an improved Orion rocket.
The search for water has been one of the main focuses within the space and planetary exploration community for a long time. Data taken by the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has indicated that there is an active water cycle on Mars. This water cycle is driven by a process where chlorate and perchlorate salts commonly found on the Martian surface absorb atmospheric water and transition into a liquid state, a brine. Due to its importance for the future exploration of our red neighbour, the ExoMars 2020 mission is scheduled to include an instrument, HABIT, to further investigate the water cycle.
The SALACIA student experiment will provide an opportunity to study the properties of the Martian salts prior to the ExoMars 2020 launch. By flying a selection of these salts on a REXUS rocket, SALACIA will investigate their behaviour during the flight through different atmospheric layers (up to 90 km height). The main focus of the investigation will be on the absorption of water by the salts, and by camera recording of the how they react during the flight.
Additionally, SALACIA will work as a pre-study for HABIT and as such, will help to identify and understand critical behaviours of the salts during future rocket flights. The SALACIA experiment is realized by a group of sixteen university students studying space science and engineering at Luleå University of Technology in northern Sweden.
The experiment objectives can be summarised to:
- By making continuous conductivity, temperature and pressure measurements throughout the flight of the REXUS 21 rocket, SALACIA shall provide an atmospheric profile displaying the variation of hydration levels over altitude for each respective salt.
- SALACIA shall show how the hygroscopic properties of the salts are affected by the characteristics of a real-world rocket launch.
For a total mission success, the following Secondary Objective also has to be implemented:
- SALACIA shall by camera monitor the salts inside the REXUS 21 rocket throughout the whole flight.
See www.salacia.se for more information about SALACIA.