Our group has developed several facilities and software toolboxes that we use for our research in planetary science. Since 2022 we are investing in the expansion of our laboratory facilities. Below you can find an overview of current facilities and the ones under development.

DakLab (‘Rooftop laboratory’)

In 2022 we opened our brand new DakLab, a rooftop laboratory dedicated to radio, satellite and astronomical observations. It has been set-up and developed by dr. ir. Bart Root. Various users operate instrumentation placed outside on the rooftop of the faculty building. One of the key projects is the DopTrack station, a satellite tracking station hosting several VHF/UHF antenna’s to capture the radio signals of over passing satellites for educational and research purposes. The principle of Doppler shift is used to determine the range-rate of the satellites. The TU Delft own precise orbit determination software TUDAT is able to use these observables to predict trajectories of cubesats. DopTrack is open for student and staff to experiment and able to track Delfi-C3, Delfi-n3Xt, Delfi-PQ, and any other satellite transmitting in the VHF/UHF bandwidth.

Delft Planetary Labs

The Delft Planetary Labs (DPL) offers a coherent framework for research facilities that are centred on applications in planetary science. DPL is a ‘distributed lab’ consisting of lab facilities tailored to various research strategies that focus on studying properties of asteroids, planets and (icy) moons. All these facilities have in common that planetary properties and processes are studied using an ‘analogue approach’, i.e. by recreating conditions found on other planets, through lab environments, use of analogue materials or field (i.e. landscape) analogues. This approach offers excellent crosslinking of labs with each other and with other topics within department; they can provide observables, help test instruments and offer validation for in silico (modelling) studies. The following facilities below are part of the DPL.

Vacuum chamber for planetary surface

The aim of this planetary laboratory is to investigate planetary analogs under low temperature and pressure conditions that are met on moons and planets in our solar system. The proposed chamber is unique for planetary sciences in the NL as it will cover intermediate pressure ranges that are typical to some of the conditions met in our solar system bodies for moons with plumes or with dense exospheres or for planets with diffuse atmospheres. Dr. Stéphanie Cazaux is the point of contact for this facility.

We are currently realizing this facility, more details will follow soon.

UV-to-IR spectroscopic facility

The spectroscopic investigation of planetary surfaces requires a careful preparation of the samples, the analysis in a controlled environment and over a wide spectral range, and finally a storage of the minerals secured from any alteration. The facility consists of a FTIR spectrometer, a press to form pellets from powders for transmission experiments, and a dry cabinet to store sensitive samples. Several options are needed to extend the spectral range from the UV to IR (0.36 – 28.5µm), and to perform the spectra over the complete range without action by an operator to manually change optics. Dr. Sandra Potin is the point of contact for this facility.

We are currently realizing this facility, more details will follow soon.

High performance computing

The capacity group for planetary interior modelling develops and applies numerical models to study the interior of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the Earth. Simulations predict deformation, heat generation and gravity change due to surface loading, tidal dissipation and rotation, for planetary bodies with fluid layers and 3D variation in parameters. We have 2 servers which are used for simulating planetary deformation with the commercial finite element software ABAQUS:

  • 64-cpu (AMD Opteron(TM) Processor 6276 @ 2.30GHz) for MSc students
  • 72-cpu (Intel(R) Xeon(R) Gold 6140 CPU @ 2.30GHz) for PhD students and researchers

New investments will increase the computational facilities for our research. Dr. ir. Wouter van der Wal is the point of contact for this facility.

Planetary Flight Office

The Planetary Flight Office is a ‘flying field lab’ that uses commercial drones for field studies in planetary geoscience and meteorite research. Drones are uniquely suited to fill the spatial gap between a lab-setting and orbit, making this approach highly complementary to our other laboratories. We currently operate a DJI Mavic 2 Pro and will be using specialized mission planning and control software from UgCS to fly photogrammetry missions. This process allows high-quality images to be obtained to render digital surface models. Similar surface models can be produced using satellite images taken from orbit around other planets and moons. These datasets allow a quantitative comparison to be made between places on Earth and those on other planetary bodies (see graphical summary below). The facility also aims to become a powerful educational tool to allow students to be involved in the full research cycle, from problem definition, data acquisition in the field (by drone), to data processing and interpretation, tailored to their specific research requirements. The facility is run and operated by our drone pilot Dr. Sebastiaan de Vet.