In the beginning of April, Europe’s largest sounding rocket will blast off from Esrange Space Center. For the first time in seven years, SSC is launching a MAXUS rocket carrying a payload that will provide microgravity conditions during 12 minutes to scientific research experiments. MAXUS 9 rocket measures 15.5 meters long, including payload and motor. The motor is now in place on the launch pad at Esrange Space Center, waiting to lift off.
Planned launch date is 6 April. MAXUS 9 will carry four scientific experiment modules. The main purpose of the different experiments is to investigate different materials and processes in microgravity. One example is the XRMON experiment. Two small furnaces containing metal samples are mounted in the rocket module. The samples are melted before flight and as soon microgravity is reached the different melts are set in contact with each other so that the mixing can be observed. Six such sample pairs will be processed during flight, at two different temperatures, 1200 and 1560 C. The metal samples are X-rayed and thus we can observe the process in real time during the flight as we will be sending parts of the digital image down to the ground over radio link. The aim of the research is to understand fundamental processes in metal alloys, to be able to develop materials that are very light and sustainable.
The MAXUS programme is a joint venture between SSC and Airbus DS. The principle customer is the European Space Agency (ESA). The rocket provides an efficient and reliable access to high quality microgravity.
The MAXUS sounding rocket programme was funded by Airbus DS and SSC in 1990 as an industrial joint venture. ESA has been the single user of the programme since the very beginning, financed through the European Programme for Life and Physical Science in Space (ELIPS). MAXUS carries 4-5 Scientific experiment modules of a total mass of up to 575 kg. The experiment modules are developed by SSC and Airbus DS under ESA contract.
The MAXUS 9 project started in 2013 and will be the tenth MAXUS mission launched from Esrange Space Center.