Institutet för rymdfysik

IRF and the ESA Swarm mission

Swarm satellites (Picture: ESA/AOES Medialab)
(Picture: ESA/AOES Medialab)

The European Space Agency's Swarm mission consists of three identical satellites, each weighing 468 kg, was launched into low Earth, near-polar, orbit, on board a Rockot launcher (with Breeze-KM upper stage) from Plesetsk, Russia, on 22 November 2013. The mission is designed to measure the magnetic signals that stem from Earth's core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere. In addition, Swarm data will be used to study the Sun's influence on Earth system by analysing electric currents in the magnetosphere and ionosphere as well as understanding the impact of the solar wind on the dynamics of the upper atmosphere.

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Uppsala, IRF-U, has developed a Langmuir probe for the mission. This probe provides measurements of electron density, electron temperature and the electric potential of the satellite. The Langmuir probe is part of the Electric Field Instrument which is positioned at the front of each of the Swarm satellites and measures plasma density, drift and acceleration in high resolution to characterise the electric field around Earth. At the core of this instrument are two ingenious thermal-ion imagers developed by a team at the University of Calgary (Canada), to show first in orbit the ionospheric 3D ion distribution, with help from the Langmuir probes providing the spacecraft potential. The imagers and LPs have been integrated into the Swarm EFI (electric field instrument) by COM DEV in Canada.

Launched: 22 November at 12:02 GMT (13:02 CET) from Plesetsk, Russia.
Destination: Low Earth, near-polar, orbit in the Earth's magnetosphere
IRF instrument:

Langmuir probe

Contact: Scientific information: Dr Stephan Buchert, tel. +46-18-471 5928,; Prof. Hermann Opgenoorth, tel. +46-18-471 5912,

Technical information: Dr Anders Eriksson, tel. +46-18-471 5945,
Official satellite page: Swarm web page at ESA

Press releases and other news items:




Updated by webmaster*, 2015-04-15