HP-MFA for Foresail

Space demonstration of a high precision magnetometer front-end ASIC aboard the FORESAIL mission

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

One possible aspect to reduce costs of space exploration and hence allowing for more frequent missions is to reduce the spacecraft size and to bring required launch masses down. Scientific instruments for such missions do require more and more reductions in resource requirements, such as volume, mass and power while at the same time achieving at least the same performance as conventional instruments. Consequently, it is important that especially the instrument front ends and readout units undergo miniaturization.

More than 15 years ago, the Space Research Institute (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences has started to develop a miniaturized front-end electronics based on an Applications Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) for the readout of magnetic field sensors. The electronics chip has thus been called Magnetometer Front-end ASIC (MFA).

The MFA has been successfully flown on the NASA's four satellite mission called Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) and on ESA's participation in the South Korean space weather satellite GEO-KOMPSAT-2A (GK-2A). For both missions (MMS was launched in 2015 and GK-2A in 2018) and in total six flight magnetometers, the MFA has been showing superior functionality and competitive performance compared to magnetometers with discretely built electronics.

The drawbacks of the MFA as of today are its limited dynamic range, its only moderate radiation harness and the fact that the lifetime of the chip process has come to an end.

Contents and goals

This project shall be performed in a close cooperation between IWF and the Institute of Electronics of the Graz University of Technology. It aims for

  1. the development and test of a new generation magnetometer front-end ASIC based on a concept study, which was done within a precursor project, and
  2. the space demonstration of the new MFA aboard a Finish CubeSat called FORESAIL, which shall enable a rapid technology uplift of the new development and moreover unique radiation belt investigations by IWF scientists.


The success of this project will pave the way for the participation of the proposing institutions in ESA's already selected Comet-Interceptor mission, for which low-resource electronics is mandatory because the second of in total two spacecraft is very much constrained in resources, and a constellation mission with 32 satellites by NASA, that can only be realised with ASIC based electronics.

Besides that, the next generation MFA is considered for various other space missions by the community, such as for NASA's dual satellite OHMIC mission and the Chinese near-Earth asteroid and main-belt comet explorer.

Expected results

As a result, IWF will be able to keep and even further extend the high level of visibility and expertise in the field of magnetospheric and planetary research based on magnetic field data. For the Institute of Electronics of TUG, this project will be a perfect opportunity to enhance the expertise and competitiveness in the development of high-precision and radiation hard microelectronics.

Project Partners


Austrian Academy of Science

Project partner

Graz University of Technology

Contact Address

Austrian Academy of Science
Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz 2
A-1010 Vienna
Web: www.oeaw.ac.at