|Mission type||High-energy astrophysics|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||Planned: after 2020|
|Launch site||Tanegashima, LA-Y|
|Contractor||Mitsubishi Heavy Industries|
|Perigee altitude||400 km (250 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||400 km (250 mi)|
|Epoch||October 2015 (ISS)|
The Extreme Universe Space Observatory onboard Japanese Experiment Module (JEM-EUSO) is the first space mission concept devoted to the investigation of cosmic rays and neutrinos of extreme energy (E > 5×1019 eV). Using the Earth's atmosphere as a giant detector, the detection is performed by looking at the streak of fluorescence produced when such a particle interacts with the Earth's atmosphere.
EUSO was a mission of the European Space Agency, designed to be hosted on the International Space Station as an external payload of the Columbus. EUSO successfully completed the "Phase A" study, however in 2004, ESA decided not to proceed with the mission because of programmatic and financial constraints. The mission was then re-oriented as a payload to be hosted on board the JEM module of the Japanese KIBO facility of the ISS. The mission was then renamed JEM-EUSO.
JEM-EUSO is currently (2013) studied by RIKEN and JAXA, in collaboration with 95 other institutions from 16 countries aiming for a flight after 2020. The proposed instrument consists of a set of three large Fresnel lenses of 2.65-metre diameter (with top and bottom cut off to reduce the minimum diameter to 1.9-metre so that they fit in the HTV resupply vehicle in which the instrument is to be launched) feeding a detector consisting of 137 modules each a 48 x 48 array of photomultipliers. The imaging takes place in the 300 nm-450 nm band (low-energy UV through deep-blue), and photons are time-tagged with 2.5-microsecond precision.
In addition to its main, science mission, EUSO might also be used to detect orbiting space junk that could pose a threat to ISS, but is too small to be spotted by astronomers (1 to 10 cm). The ISS is shielded adequately against particles that are smaller than 1 cm. Particles in this range, or larger, can inflict serious damage, especially to other objects in orbit, since many of them are traveling at speeds of about 36,000 km/h. Nearly 3,000 tons of space debris resides in low-Earth orbit; more than 700,000 pieces of debris larger than 1 cm now orbit Earth. A laser might then be used to deflect dangerous particles. The project could be ready to implement after about 2017–2018, using better lasers.