LSU Astrophysicists Lead U.S. Science Team’s International Space Station Experiment

International Space StationBATON ROUGE – LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Professors John Wefel, Mike Cherry and Greg Guzik are part of a new experiment that will be conducted at the International Space Station. The experiment will use the CALorimetric Electron Telescope, or CALET, instrument to gather new and expanded data over multiple years in the search for possible nearby sources of very high energy cosmic ray particles and signatures of dark matter, which makes up about one-quarter of the mass-energy of the Universe yet is poorly understood.

The CALET instrument is scheduled for launch to the International Space Station, or ISS, aboard the HTV-5 vehicle on Aug. 19 at about 6:50 a.m. CDT (8:50 p.m. JDT) from the Tanegashima Space Center off the southern coast of Japan. Cherry will represent LSU at the launch.

An H-IIB rocket will launch the H-II Transfer Vehicle, named Kounotori-5, which will dock with the ISS on Aug. 20-21. CALET will then be transferred to the Exposed Platform attached to the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo. It will spend the next 2-5 years measuring very high energy cosmic ray electrons, nuclei and gamma rays. The launch and ISS rendezvous can be viewed on NASA TV at

The Japanese-led international mission involves nearly 50 researchers from Japan, Italy and the U.S. LSU leads the U.S. Science Team consisting of LSU, Washington University in St. Louis, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Denver. LSU will host the U.S. CALET Data Center.

“This mission is a tribute to the importance of international scientific research,” said LSU Professor Emeritus of Physics & Astronomy and U.S. Co-Principal Investigator for CALET John P. Wefel. “CALET is a great instrument, and we expect to make new astrophysical discoveries with the rich dataset the mission will provide. The new insights into the workings of powerful astrophysical particle accelerators can teach us how to develop better accelerating machines here on the ground. In addition, CALET may observe a signature of the elusive dark matter.”

CALET will measure the intensity of cosmic ray electrons, protons and nuclei accelerated to near the speed of light, and also observe high energy gamma rays. The main CALET telescope consists of an array of scintillation detectors to determine the electric charge of the incoming cosmic ray particles, an imaging calorimeter of scintillating fibers to determine the particle trajectory and a deep lead tungstate calorimeter to measure particle and gamma ray energies up to 20 Tera-electron volts, a factor of more than three times higher than the particle beams at the largest manmade accelerator on Earth—the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. At such high energies, CALET may be the first experiment to observe a relatively near source of high energy radiation.

LSU scientists will operate the U.S. CALET Data Center, or USCDC, linking to Japan and Italy to obtain and process the flight data, distribute the results to the other U.S. institutions and serve as a central site for the data analysis.

CALET is funded in the U.S. by NASA, in Italy by the Italian Space Agency and in Japan by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.


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Contact Mimi Lavalle
LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy


Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations