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Integrated Medium for Planetary Exploration

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A data hub for space and planetary research

EU-funded scientists with a common data hub for numerous space missions have made it possible to compare and interconnect observational data received from beyond Earth with numerical simulation results. The developments will also help increase our knowledge of the solar system.

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Space and planetary research rely on sophisticated computational tools to simulate conditions in our solar system and make the most of data received from past and on-going missions. One breakthrough in this direction has been the development of a portal that makes a huge amount of data available and operable at a single point. Importantly, this new portal allows scientists to understand complex observational data by visualizing and comparing them with numerical simulations. Developed within the IMPEX (Integrated medium for planetary exploration) project, the interactive computational framework provides support for sharing data and computational models between missions and research teams. Due to the complexity of space exploration, scientific instruments are usually purpose-made. Moreover, different standards for data processing and crunching tools are often built in-house, using mission-specific data structures and protocols. This means that exchange or comparison of data between missions and different models is impossible. To overcome this difficulty the IMPEX team has developed a comprehensive protocol as well as a new data model to facilitate the joint operation of observational and modelled data. The IMPEX Data Model has become an integral part of the internationally acknowledged SPASE data model in the form of the IMPEx simulation extensions. Based on that, the IMPEX portal offers tools for the visualisation and analysis of a variety of observational and numerical data sets. Numerous simulation databases are fed into the system, opening up the possibility for observations to be easily compared with theoretical predictions. IMPEX's computational framework was first used to compare observational data from Venus Express and Messenger orbiting Venus and Mercury with existing simulation models. The comparison of data from the Rosetta mission with the respective simulation data followed next. The starting point for data processing is the automated multi-dataset analysis (AMDA) tool. AMDA provides access to data and easy-to-use data mining functionalities. It is designed for the analysis and visualisation of observational as well as simulation data, focused on space plasma physics. On the other hand, 3DView with 3D visualisation capabilities can be used to display spacecraft trajectories and planetary ephemerides. IMPEX databases are directly linked to 3DView (and other tools) via the IMPEX protocol, enabling the combination of spacecraft orbits with their in situ measurements and simulated data. Users can select simulations to be stored and further processed within IMPEX. In addition, the simulation results can be interpolated onto the trajectory of the space probes. This way, in situ measurements can be compared with the simulation results as well as visualised in 3D. The powerful IMPEX system facilitates collaborative research on the plasma and magnetic field environments of Venus and Mercury, but also of other objects in our solar system, like comets, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Earth. Although the project ended in 2015, work on the system continues; the consortium is already getting ready to lift IMPEX up into the cloud. Using cloud resources and big data services, IMPEX will offer unique functionalities to the scientific community. The start-up company ITVersum has been established during project execution to support its follow-up actions in IT related areas.


Data hub, space, solar system, computational modelling, observational data, IMPEX, planetary exploration, web based science tools

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