Current Projects

The Space Research and Planetology Division is involved in a number of hardware developments for missions led by major space agencies including ESA, NASA, Roscosmos and ISRO. You can find direct links to some of these projects in this area.


CHEOPS is the first S-class mission from ESA and was selected in October 2012 with a launch target for 2018.

CHEOPS stands for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite. It is a small photometric observatory to be launched into low Earth orbit to measure transits of Exo-planets.

Experimental Planetary Science

The BepiColombo mission will be among the first missions to explore Mercury, one of the last unknown realms of the solar system. It must, therefore, provide fundamental knowledge about the planet and lay the ground for any further exploration e.g., by future lander missions. The importance of Mercury stems from its position as the innermost planet and from its unusual composition. It is widely held that understanding Mercury will provide a quantum leap in understanding the formation and evolution of the solar system.

A fundamental task of exploratory space missions is to characterize and measure the figure, topography, and surface morphology of the target planet. A state of the art tool for this task is a laser altimeter because it can provide absolute topographic height and position with respect to a Mercury centred co-ordinate system. The technology of laser altimetry is new in Europe. The BepiColombo Laser Altimeter (BELA) will be the first such instrument developed for a European space mission. BELA will form an integral part of a larger geodesy and geophysics package, incorporating radio science and stereo imaging.

CaSSIS is the main imaging system onboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The Planetary Imaging Group is the lead investigation team for this instrument and has a web site specifically dedicated to CaSSIS.

We were the only European Co-Is on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) – the high resolution imaging system on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) when it launched in 2005. The Principal Investigator is Prof. Alfred McEwen from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. We are interested in several research topics that HiRISE can address.

MRO was launched on August 12, 2005 from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft completed orbit insertion in March 2006. This was followed by an aerobraking phase where MRO used the drag produced by the atmosphere of Mars to slow the spacecraft down. This brought MRO into its final, slightly elliptical orbit of 255 km x 320 km above the surface of Mars. The inclination of the orbit with respect to the Martian equator is about 87° (i.e. it is a roughly polar orbit). The orbit is Sun-synchronous so that MRO passes directly over the equator at the point on Mars where it is 15:05 local time. Our main research area is connected to volatile processes involving water and CO2.

The Laser-Abation Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer instrument (LMS) at the Physikalisches Institut of the University of Bern is designed for in-situ measurements with high acuracy and sensitivity for elemental and isoptopic composition measurements of regolith material on celestial objects. High accurate measurements on major, minor and especially trace elements down to the ppb range and of isotope ratios play a crucial role for a depper and better understanding on the evolution of our planetery system and the question of the origin of life.

The BepiColombo mission of ESA is a comprehensive mission to explore Mercury in great detail, including two spacecrafts: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) from ESA and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) from Jaxa. The SERENA instrument, located on the MPO spacecraft, will investigate the interaction of the solar wind with the planet, study the near-Mercury plasma environment, and measure the composition of Mercury's faint atmosphere.

More information coming soon.

The Jupiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is the first large-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme. JUICE will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. The JUICE spacecraft will be the first spacecraft ever to orbit a Moon (Ganymede) of a giant planet.

The Particle Environment Package (PEP), led by Stas Barabash (IRF, Kiruna) and Peter Wurz (Uni Bern) was selected to be part of the scientific payload of the JUICE mission.

The University of Bern contributes to PEP with one sensor, the Neutral and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NIM). Furthermore, Uni Bern is responsible for the entire mechanical design and qualification of PEP experiment package and contributes hardware to another instrument of PEP (JNA).

We invite you to visit the website to learn more about this exciting project and its instruments.

JUICE (for Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) is the next ESA large mission to be launched in 2022. JUICE will orbit Ganymede and perform a detailed investigation of this large Jovian moon. The Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) on board JUICE will perform topographic mapping and contribute to large scale geodesy experiment. GALA will use a similar system than that of BELA and the Planetary Imaging Group (PIG) has been invited to provide the rangefinder system with the associated software.

Lunar Research

The Chandrayaan-1 is a mission by the Indian Space Agency (ISRO), launched on 22 October, 2008, and stayed in lunar oribt from October 2008 to August 2009. The University of Bern was part of the SARA instrument to investigate the interaction of the solar wind with the lunar surface,

More information coming soon.

More information coming soon.

Comet Research

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission ended in September 2016 with a spectacular landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Over 2 years the ROSINA mass spectrometer suite, led by a team of the University of Bern, continuously monitored the composition of the volatiles surrounding the nucleus. Comets are thought to belong to the most pristine objects and thus give us an unprecedented view on the early Solar System and the material from which it formed.

OSIRIS is the main imaging system on Rosetta. We are involved in the geomorphological interpretation of the data and studying the gas and dust dynamics within a few kilometres of the surface. We also coordinate a Horizon 2020 project designed to combine several data sets to look at the surface properties and outgassing.

Interstellar Gas

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission of NASA investigates the interaction of the solar wind with the surrounding interstellar medium by imaging via energetic neutral atoms, with two ENA cameras, IBEX-Lo and IBEX-Hi. The WP developed part of the hardware for the low-energy ENA instrument of IBEX and will calibrate this instrument in the MEFISTO facility. IBEX launched in October 2008 and continues to operate nominally.

Uni Bern Press Release

The Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe is a NASA medium class satellite whose launch date is planned for 2024. It is the direct successor of the successful Interstellar Boundary Explorer (Link auf IBEX). IMAP will measure the interstellar neutral atoms flowing to the inner solar system and it will map the boundary regions between the heliosphere and the interstellar medium by measuring energetic neutral atoms (ENA) from those regions. The spatial resolution and the energy range covered by IMAP will revolutionize our knowledge of the heliosphere and its surroundings. IMAP will also study how plasma particles are accelerated by measuring the local solar wind protons, heavy ions, electrons, and the (very energetic) cosmic rays that make it from interstellar space to the inner solar system. The WP developed part of the hardware for the low-energy ENA instrument of IMAP and will calibrate this instrument in the MEFISTO facility.

Sun and Solar Wind

More information coming soon.