Main Projects

LFSC | A Low Flying Spacecraft Mission

In the framework of the ESA-Greece Task Force Programme, a team lead by the ATHENA-Space Programmes Unitî has completed successfully a study demonstrating that an exploratory mission of the MLT region by a Low-Flying Spacecraft (LFSC) is feasible. The proposed Reference Mission Concept involves a highly elliptical dipping-orbit main satellite releasing a number of small sub-satellites with minimal instrumentation at selected perigee passes. The sub-satellites perform an orbit that gradually reduces its perigee altitude due to atmospheric drag. During each sub-satelliteís descent, the co-temporal measurements by the main satellite and the sub-satellite offer a unique and unprecedented synchronized two-point measurement through the whole MLT region.

LIDAR | A Mesospheric Lidar Mission

The mesosphere remains to this date one of the least explored and understood parts of the Earth atmosphere: Situated at altitudes ~50 to 90 km, it is too high for balloon experiments and too low for orbital vehicles, due to significant atmospheric drag. Thus mesospheric measurements are primarily performed either by rocket experiments or by lidars and radars from the ground. Long-used for ground-based observations of the atmosphere, lidars are now being carried by a new generation of Earth observing satellites (e.g., CALIPSO and the upcoming ADM-AEOLUS missions) which are studying primarily the lower layers of the atmosphere. It is the overall objective of this study to investigate the prospect and advantages of using a spaceborne lidar system dedicated to the study and monitoring of the mesosphere.

WIKI | A Knowledge Base for Upper Atmosphere

Online wikipedia-style encyclopaedias, or "Wikis", are essentially collaborative or community websites, where experts can contribute their knowledge on particular subjects to a globally accessible information source; at the same time, a "Wiki" is also a composition system, a repository and essentially a tool for collaboration. Towards this end, we have constructed a specialized online wiki-style forum dedicated to the study of the upper atmosphere and in particular the Mesosphere, Lower Thermosphere and Ionosphere. The main driver is to provide to the scientific community an educational and resource tool for students and researchers alike, in an area where there is an information gap: whereas web-based information sources already exist for many scientific fields (such as space physics, atmospheric sciences, global warming and climate change issues), there is a lack of scientific and educational online sources of information and forums for upper atmosphere research.

DeorbitSail | A Spacecraft Mission to deploy sails in Space

The Deorbitsail project is a collaboration to build a 3U CubeSat sized satellite with a deployable sail that will demonstrate rapid deorbiting. The deorbiting capability of the Deorbitsail satellite is due to increased aerodynamic drag from the large surface area of the deployed sail in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). According to the proposed concept, eventually the satellite will return to the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. The project is funded by FP7 and this includes launch costs and the actual demonstration of deorbiting. ATHENA-SPU participates in this project in CubeSat subsystems as well as in testing, software, and the dissemination and communication of the results of the project.

Deploytech | Advancing the Technology of Deployable Structures

Large deployable structures are a critical part of a number of space structures and systems, such as large reflectors, Earth observation antennas, radiators, sun shields and solar arrays. The main objective of DEPLOYTECH is to advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of three space deployable technologies by qualifying their concepts and technologies for space use. The project also aims to contribute to the broader goal of supplying Europe with space critical technologies in alignment with European strategic challenges and TRL requirements. DEPLOYTECH has eight European partner institutions, one of which is ATHENA-SPU, and is assisted by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (as an external consulting partner). The project is funded by the European Commission through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and will run for three years from 2012 to the end of 2014.


The Mesosphere, Lower Thermosphere and Ionosphere (MLTI) region constitutes a complex dynamical photochemical and electromagnetic system, which is sensitive to a combination of external factors: the incoming solar EUV radiation, as well as particle precipitation and large scale electrical currents produce dramatic effects in the MLT and significantly alter its energetics, dynamics and chemistry in a way that is not entirely understood. At the same time, the MLTI is the least measured of all atmospheric regions, as it is too high for balloon experiments and too low for orbital vehicles, due to significant atmospheric drag; it is thus sometimes called (quite appropriately) the “Ignorosphere” among scientists. The main objective of this study is to identify areas of large discrepancies between models and data and to provide estimates of the variability of the main parameters that are involved in electrodynamic and chemical processes in the upper atmosphere by using state-of-the-art models and datasets of the MLTI. Objectives of this study are also to identify measurement gaps, to propose measurement techniques to fill these gaps and to define the required dynamic range of instruments targeting to perform in-situ measurements in the MLTI. MLTI-ED is an ESA funded project.


In the framework of the Hellenic Space Technologies and Applications Cluster initiative (si-Cluster) , Space Programmes Unit offered the design and the development of a National Forest Fire Risk Assessment System based on the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and on the Land Cover Classification System (LCCS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.