Future Space Missions

iaps-exomarsThe main scientific objectives of the ExoMars mission are the search for past and present life on Mars, the geochemical characterization of the planet, knowledge of the Martian environment and its geophysical aspects and identification of possible risks for future human missions.

Two missions are planned for the ExoMars program: an Orbiter with an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module launched in 2016 and a Rover scheduled for 2020. The two projects are implemented by ESA with Roscosmos’ cooperation.

Italy has a strong participation in the mission and the INAF-IAPS is involved in the instruments NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery) to analyze gases in martian atmosphere and MA_MISS (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies) spectrometer for the analysis of  geological and biological evolution of the Martian subsurface.

ESA’s ExoMars ASI’s ExoMars


Solar Orbiter (ESA) is a great opportunity to discover the fundamental links between the sun’s magnetized atmosphere and the solar wind dynamic underlying space weather. In October of 2011, Solar Orbiter was selected as M1 Cosmic Vision mission and entered the phase of implementation in 2012. Its orbit, during the operational phase will be characterized by a just 0.28AU perihelion which will observe the Sun’s surface at high spatial resolution. In addition, taking advantage of the orbital inclination greater than 30 ° with respect to the celestial equator, toward the end of the mission, will be observed for the first time directly to the polar regions. These observations remotely, along with measures provided by in-situ instruments, represent the ingredients needed to unravel the mechanisms underlying the generation and the coronal plasma heating.

The scientific payload includes two instruments with important Italian contributions: METIS (Multi Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy) and SWA (Solar Wind Analyzer). The coronagraph METIS is constituted by a coronal imager in the VL and UV (HI Ly α). This has a coronagraph Italian PIship (INAF – OATo). The plasma analyzer SWA is a suite of 4 plasma sensors completely managed by a single DPU. SWA will measure the distribution function of the speed of the constituent particles of the solar wind plasma. SWA has an Italian CoPIship (INAF – IAPS) responsible for the DPU. METIS and SWA are made within ASI contracts.

ESA’s Solar Orbiter UCL’s Solar Orbiter

IXPEThe IXPE mission (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer) has been selected as the next space mission of NASA’s Explorer Program. The launch is scheduled for the end of 2020.

The IXPE mission is the first real chance to open the era of X-ray polarimetry in astronomy. The IXPE mission will measure the polarization of X-rays from  sources like neutron stars, Pulsar Wind Nebulae and blacks holes.

The detectors sensitive to the polarization of X-rays have been developed in collaboration by the INFN and INAF Italian research institutes with the support of ASI.

IXPE NASA Info sulla missione




Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, the icy moons of the Jovian system, will be at the center of Jupiter Icy moons Explorer (JUICE), the new European project of planetary exploration chosen from the L1 mission of ESA’s Cosmic Vision. JUICE will be launched from Kourou in 2022 and will reach Jupiter in 2030, he will carry out its mission to study for three years in an environment – the Jovian – very similar to a small solar system.

The Italian role in the JUICE mission is very important and extended throughout the country. INAF participate with leadership roles in the field of radar and hyperspectral rooms, or in the context of neutral atoms and, more marginally, in radioscience.


iaps-loftThe Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) is a candidate mission for the M3 launch opportunity in ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. LOFT is designed to study the behaviour of matter in close proximity to black holes and neutron stars. High-time-resolution X-ray observations will be used to investigate strong-field gravity, to measure black hole masses and spins, and to study the equation of state of ultra-dense matter



The Japanese mission SPICA (Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics) aims astronomical observation in the mid and far infrared (imaging and spectroscopy among 5-210μm) with sensitivity never reached, up to two orders of magnitude better than those of Herschel’s instruments, by mechanical cryocoolers on board that will cool the primary mirror at about 6K.

In May 2018, SPICA was one of the 3 candidates Class M missions for the  Cosmic Vision science programme, with a new possible launch date in 2032.

The Italian participation, coordinated by IAPS, includes electronics and control software, low-noise amplifiers and cooperation on the ground segment and the definition of the scientific programs.


XIPEXIPE (X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer) is a  space ​mission selected by ESA in 2017 as one of the three candidates for the M4 medium-class mission in ESA’s Science Programme, with a launch possibility in 2020.

The objective of the mission is the observation of celestial sources emitting polarized X-rays. The XIPE mission would allow for the first time to perform time resolved  measurements of polarization in the X-ray energy band, while  obtaining the image of the source.

The XIPE mission aims to observe the phenomena of acceleration of charged particles in celestial sources among the most turbulent in the universe as supernova remnants, the jet emissions and Pulsar Wind Nebulae. The XIPE mission would allow also to study the X-ray emission from polarized sources having an extremely intense magnetic field as the magnetic cataclysmic variables, accreting pulsars and magnetars. The long list of observation candidates includes extragalactic sources such as active galactic nuclei. The XIPE mission would allow to study fundamental physics, including the search for anti-matter, having the Universe as a great laboratory.

The XIPE mission is a collaboration between several European countries members of ESA. The detectors sensitive to the polarization of X-rays have been developed in collaboration by the INFN and INAF Italian research institutes with the support of ASI.

The name of the mission refers also to the Mixtec god Xipe Totec, originally called simply Xipe that was then included in the Aztec mythology. It presided over the rebirth, symbolizing the corn seed that stripped of his skin gives nourishment to humanity.


iaps-athenaATHENA is an observatory in X-rays among the proposed class missions L (large) ESA. It was designed to resolve some of the fundamental questions in astrophysics in the next decade.

INAF and IAPS are closely involved in ATHENA since the early stages of the project.


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