ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects


Background cosmic radiation

Main Theme Background cosmic radiation
Mission Responsibility ESA
Launch date 2009
End of Mission 2011
Current phase End phase C/D


The Planck mission is the third Medium-Sized Mission (M3) of ESA's Horizon programme. Its objective is to study background cosmic radiation. Two cutting-edge instruments will fly on board the satellite. The Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) and the High Frequency Instrument (HFI) have been planned and developed by international consortiums of scientific institutions with the support of the industrial sector.

The launch is planned in February 2009 together with the Herschel satellite. After the launch the two satellites will separate to reach the Lagrange point L2, at 1.5 million km from the Earth, where they will carry out their respective observation programmes. Planck's operation life will be 21 months from the end of the commissioning phase with the possibility of an extension. Planck will perform at least two complete observations of the entire celestial sphere.


Scientific Objectives
The objective of the mission is to measure with high angular resolution and great accuracy the anisotropy of the cosmic background (Cosmic Microwave Background) in microwave frequencies. Its objective will be the improvement of our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the Universe.


Italian Contribution
Italy is responsible for developing the LF1, an instrument that operates in the bands centred on the frequencies of 30, 44 and 70 GHz. It is made up of 56 radiometers cooled at 20K (-253°C), the temperature needed for achieving the sensitivity required by scientific measurements. The Principal Investigator (PI) is Nazzareno Mandolesi of INAF-IASF of Bologna.

For the HFI (French PI-ship), made up of 48 bolometers cooled at 0.1 K that operates at frequencies between 100 and 857 GHz, Italian participation concerns the supply of preamplification cryogenics under the responsibility of the Department of Physics of the Università di Roma "La Sapienza".

For both instruments the Italian scientific community is also very much involved in scientific operations connected to the mission which at the moment is mainly concerned with the development and testing of procedures for reducing and analyzing the data that will be produced by the mission.


International Agreements
The Planck mission falls within the framework of ESA's Science Programme to which Italy contributes at about 13%.
Within the framework of realizing the LFI instrument, NASA/JPL was responsible for the supply of the "Sorption Cryo-cooler", necessary for operation at the right temperatures of both Planck instruments. While the instruments were being developed, cooperation was regulated by a Letter of Agreement between ASI and NASA set down on 29 March 2001, with a deadline of 31 December 2006 and extended through the decree of the special commissioner n.  38 of 11 April 2007. The signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to regulate the relations between the parties during launch preparation, flight and post-flight phases of the mission is expected by the end of the year.