Belgian control center advances the ASIM lightning and thunder hunter


ASIM (Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor) studies electrical activity at high altitudes above thunderstorms. The 314-kg payload on the outside of the Columbus module, the European space laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS), must now be moved to make way for a new NASA experiment. This is a technically complicated job.

ASIM was installed on the Columbus module in April 2018. The mission was initially scheduled to end in 2020, but was extended by two years given the state-of-the-art performance of the instruments and excellent scientific publications in journals such as Science and Nature. Now, an American experiment will occupy the platform of ASIM, which must move to the observation platform called Nadir (point of the sky vertical to the observer, downwards, the opposite of the zenith) of the Columbus. Under the supervision of Belgian User Support and Operation Centre (B.USOC), the ISS Canadarm2 robotic arm must reorient the instrument sensors 90° towards the Earth's surface so that ASIM can continue to monitor storms from a different angle. This is very delicate work, which B.USOC spent nine months preparing for in cooperation with several engineering teams across Europe.