April 28, 2011

Endeavour, STS-134 and AMS-02

The primary payload on the Endeavour,  STS-134 mission to ISS is a wonderous experiment called AMS-02, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. I’ve been vaguely, remotely aware of this particle physics detector for about 18 months. I recall learning that launch of the AMS-02 payload was being bumped back due to an issue with the magnets and sensors on the device.

365820main_ams-021.jpg Image left: AMS-02 during preparation for launch aboard Shuttle Endeavour

I seem to recall learning of this experiment in late 2009. In the intervening months the international team lead by Nobel laureate Dr. Samuel Ting, of MIT has completely redesigned and re-engineered the spectrometer replacing what had been super cooled electro magnets with a “simpler” permanent magnet configuration.

I’ve seen, heard or read several interviews with Ting recently and have come to learn and somewhat comprehend the implications that the science we may gather from AMS-02’s cluster of sensors may utterly reshape our understanding of the Universe.

AMS-02 is a state of the art particle physics detector. Once installed on the zenith side of ISS port truss, AMS-02 will strive to “advance knowledge of the universe and lead to the understanding of the universe’s origin by searching for antimatter, dark matter and measuring cosmic rays”

When it’s powered up it will begin collecting data and operate 24/7/365 gathering data at an incredible 7GB per secon

I believe the forthcoming discoveries AMS-02 will rival HST in terms of their profound impact on our understanding of physics and the nature of the Universe. Stay tuned

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