Delivery, test and in space operation of the Coupled Dark State magnetometer in the frame of the Chinese CSES mission

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Scalar magnetometers based on optical pumping measure the magnitude of the magnetic field with high absolute accuracy. In several mission scenarios full scientific return can only be achieved from the magnetic measurements when a scalar magnetometer is flown in addition to traditional fluxgate (vector) magnetometers.

In 2009, the Institut für Weltraumforschung (IWF/ÖAW) in cooperation with the Institut für Experimentalphysik (IEP/TUG) started the prototyping of a new type of scalar magnetometer which is called Coupled Dark State Magnetometer (CDSM). Compared to other technologies it features a less complex sensor design (no excitation coils, mechanisms and active electronics parts) with inherent omni-directional measurement capability and a high dynamic range of more than 6 decades.

Contents and goals

This project is proposed in the context of providing the CDSM for the China Seismo Electro-Magnetic Satellite (CSES) mission which is due for launch in September 2017. The CDSM is part of the High Precision Magnetometer (HPM). HPM also includes two Chinese fluxgate sensors and the common electronics, like digital processing and power supply, which is needed for all three magnetic field sensors.

CSES is a scientific mission of the Chinese Earthquake Administration (CEA) which will fly in a Sun synchronous Low Earth Orbit (LEO) dedicated to monitoring electromagnetic field as well as particle perturbations of the ionosphere and magnetosphere induced by natural sources and to study their correlations with the occurrence of seismic events.

In the frame of an ASAP 9 project (finished end of October 2016), the flight model (FM) of the CDSM has been developed up to its readiness for delivery to China.


The work load of this project comprises 

  • the delivery of the FM in Nov. 2017 to China,
  • the integration and acceptance testing of the magnetometer on instrument as well as spacecraft level,
  • the assembly and testing of a spare model,
  • the support of the launch campaign,
  • the configuration of a ground reference system based on the spare model,
  • the commissioning of the instrument after launch as well as
  • the operation and evaluation of the instrument during the early science phase of the CSES mission, which includes 
  • parallel measurements with the ground reference system.

Expected results

The CDSM was selected for this mission to enable the measurement of the magnetic field with an absolute error of less than 0.3 nT in a background field of up to 50,000 nT. Furthermore, it is the first demonstration of this new magnetometer technology in space which is of high importance for the successful development of this type of magnetometer for ESA’s JUICE mission to the Jupiter moon Ganymede.

The participation of the proposing institutions with the absolute scalar magnetometer in the CSES mission not only ensures mission success but will preserve the strong ties of both IWF and IEP to the mission and ensure that Austrian scientists and students are strongly involved in the technological achievements as well as scientific discoveries enabled by these measurements.

Project Partners


Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Institut für Weltraumforschung

Project partner

Graz University of Technology, Institute of Experimental Physics

Contact Address

Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
Institut für Weltraumforschung
Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Werner Magnes
Schmiedlstraße 6
A-8042 Graz