An international team lead by IWF has been selected by ESA to provide a Planetary Ion Camera (PICAM) for the payload of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO). PICAM is an ion mass spectrometer operating as an all-sky camera for charged particles to study the chain of processes by which neutrals are ejected from the soil, eventually ionised and transported through the environment of Mercury.
PICAM will provide the mass composition, energy and angular distribution of low energy ions up to 3 keV in the environment of Mercury. These observations will uniquely allow to study the low energy particles emitted from the surface of Mercury, their source regions, composition and ejection mechanisms, and to monitor the solar wind which may impinge on the surface and constitutes a major ejection process. This will allow to better understand the formation of Mercury's tenuous atmosphere and its magnetospheric plasma.
PICAM combines high spatial resolution, simultaneous measurements in a full 2 π field of view with a mass range extending up to ~132 u (Xenon) and a mass resolution better than ~50.
PICAM is part of the SERENA (Search for Exospheric Refilling and Emitted Natural Abundances) instrument suite of four neutral particle and ion sensors. PICAM consists of a sensor with ion optics and the ion detector as well as an attached electronics box with dedicated low and high voltage power supplies, coordinate determination and time-of-flight electronics, and a controller. The data are transferred to the common System Control Unit of SERENA.