Minimize Odin


Overview    Spacecraft    Launch   Mission Status    Sensor Complement   References

Odin is an international aeronomy and astronomy minisatellite mission led by Sweden, with Canada, France, and Finland as partners. The project is carried out and funded jointly by the space agencies of Sweden [SNSB (Swedish National Space Board)], Canada [CSA (Canadian Space Agency) and NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council)], Finland [TEKES (National Technology Agency of Finland)], and France (CNES). The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) is responsible for spacecraft system design and development. SSC provides also spacecraft operations (the operations center of SSC is located at Esrange; the latitude of 68º provides excellent visibility for polar orbiting satellites). - The Odin satellite is named after the god Odin - ruler of the Old Norse deities. 1) 2)

Objectives: Astronomy and aeronomy applications (atmospheric research: observation of stratospheric ozone chemistry, mesospheric ozone science, summer mesospheric science, coupling of atmospheric regions). The Odin satellite is an observatory in mm/sub-mm wave spectroscopy. Measurements in the wavelengths of 0.5 - 0.6 mm and 2.5 mm. These contain emission lines from molecules such as water vapor, molecular oxygen, ozone and carbon monoxide which are important for the study of atmospheric processes as well as for the study of astronomical objects. Complementary information on the Earth's atmosphere comes from spectral lines at UV and VIS wavelengths. The astronomy objectives and major scientific issues relate to star formation processes, interstellar chemistry and atmospheric ozone balance.

When the Odin project was still in its initial stages, atmospheric researchers discovered that they could use the same instruments to take readings of the Earth's atmosphere as astronomers use to study space. Hence, both categories of scientists - aeronomers and astronomers - started working together and cooperation on Odin began. In the Odin project, the aeronomers are mostly interested in water, chlorine monoxide and ozone distributions. The astronomers are mainly interested in water molecules and oxygen molecules (O2) in space (observations of line emission from interstellar H2O and O2).


Figure 1: Artist's rendition of the Odin spacecraft in orbit (image credit: SNSB)


The S/C structure is of aluminum honeycomb with carbon reinforced plastic for the reflector support structure. Odin is three-axis-stabilized (zero momentum system); attitude is sensed by: 3 coarse and 2 fine sun sensors, 3 gyros, 2 star trackers, and two 3-axis magnetometers; the actuators include: three orthogonal reaction wheels with one redundant unit, and three magnetic torquers. The star trackers were initially used in the French Sigma experiment and subsequently used for the HELIOS-A spacecraft (a European military optical reconnaissance satellite project, launch July 7, 1995). The OSU (Odin System Unit) provides onboard data handling functions (TT&C, coding/decoding, data storage, battery storage, redundancy switching, etc.). 3) 4)

Odin spacecraft mass = 250 kg (80 kg payload); size: 2.0 m height, 1.1 m width stored and 3.8 m in flight configuration; power = 300 W from deployable fixed solar arrays, during eclipse Odin is powered by 6 Ah NiCd batteries; cooling: closed Stirling cycle coolers; the pointing accuracy is ±15 arcsec in staring mode, ±1.2 arcmin in scanning mode. The S/C employs the body-pointing technique to look into the various directions. The mission design life was 2 years.

Operating modes: For aeronomy the spacecraft follows the Earth limb, scanning the atmosphere up and down from 15 km to 120 km at a rate of up to 40 scans per orbit. When observing astronomical sources Odin continuously points towards the object for up to 60 minutes. Both payload sensors point into the same direction.

RF communications: S-band at 720 kbit/s to the Esrange tracking station (Sweden); on-board storage >100 MByte in solid state memory.

Odin operations are conducted by SSC. The Esrange tracking station receives 10 passes per day. The Odin Control Center (OCC) is located at Esrange. The Odin Mission Control Center (MCC) is in Solna, Sweden. Operations are carried out on 24 hour basis, partly automatic and manned during office hours only, including the satellite command and control functions. Operationally, there is a time-sharing principle of about 50/50 between SMR and OSIRIS observations.


Figure 2: Illustration of the deployed Odin spacecraft (image credit: SSC)


Launch: The Odin satellite was launched on Feb. 20, 2001 on a Russian Start-1 launch vehicle from the Svobodny Cosmodrome, in far-eastern Russia. 5) 6)

Orbit: Sun-synchronous polar orbit; altitude = 600 km; inclination = 97.77º; with an ascending node at 18:00 hrs (dawn/dusk orbit); period = 97.6 minutes. This ensures maximum power to the satellite and also provides a stable thermal environment since eclipses only occur for a restricted period during the year (around the northern hemisphere summer solstice).

Autonomy functions implemented: 7)

• Spacecraft protection: Odin is fragile since the telescope is not allowed to be sunlit for longer periods. An umbrella is mounted between the solar panels to shadow the platform. This umbrella shield will only do its task as long as the satellite is correctly oriented versus the sun. The ACDC (Attitude Control and Determination Computer) therefore has a solar angle constraint of 32º to handle. If this constraint is exceeded, the computer will bring the satellite to safe mode obtaining a very small solar aspect angle.

• In order to avoid battery overcharge, the batteries are charged until either their voltages reaches a predefined value, or a certain amount of amp-hours has been provided in relation to what was taken out of the batteries.

• An automatic decrease of power consumption is implemented to be used if battery status indicates a problem.

• Management of momentum dump by decreasing the speed of the reaction wheels is automatically initiated using magnetorquers.

• The cryogenic cooler is used to bring down temperature of payload Schottky mixers and HEMT low noise amplifiers. Temperatures as low as 120 to 160 K are achieved improving the noise temperature. The cooler itself may not be too warm. Therefore, if a simple threshold value is exceeded, the cooler will be commanded to a predefined lower working point in order to decrease its temperature.

• A change of used command receiver and demodulator chain after 36 hours without any command reception is implemented for important but obvious reasons.

• Functions for conducting measurements all around the orbit.


Figure 3: Schematic view of Odin spacecraft elements (image credit: SSC)


Figure 4: The Odin spacecraft and observational configuration schemes (image credit: SSC)


Figure 5: The Odin CFRP main reflector with sub reflector can be seen mounted on the CFRP support structure that also holds the star tracker optical heads (image credit: SSC)



Status of mission:

• On Feb. 20, 2016, the Swedish-led Odin minisatellite mission completed 15 years on orbit and continues to scan the Earth's atmosphere. Since 2008, the satellite is also part of ESA's Third Party Mission fleet. Odin is currently in good shape and continues collecting important atmospheric data. 8)

- Canada's OSIRIS (Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imaging System) is the optical payload on Sweden's Odin satellite. It works in synergy with Sweden's advanced radiometer SMR (Sub-Millimeterwave Radiometer), and measures atmospheric composition. The OSIRIS instrument has been measuring and mapping ozone and detecting aerosols and nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere since 2001—longer than any other currently operational space instrument. The long duration and consistent quality of OSIRIS measurements are internationally recognized and used to validate and improve climate models worldwide. The resulting datasets have historical value and play an important role in international efforts like the ESA Climate Change Initiative and are used in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) ozone reports. 9)


Figure 6: Typical seasonal variations of ozone concentration over the South Pole. The left image shows higher concentrations of ozone in February 2015, and the right image shows very low ozone concentrations, the "ozone hole," in October 2015 (image credit: Canadian Space Agency, University of Saskatchewan)

• On Feb. 20, 2015, the Odin mission celebrated its fourteenth anniversary on orbit (design life of 2 years). Odin is a joint mission of Sweden, Canada, France and Finland, through their respective space agencies. ESA supports the Odin mission as one of its Third Party Missions, which enables ESA to distribute data from the mission under an agreement with the satellite owners. 10)

• The Odin spacecraft and its payload are operating nominally in 2014 (13 years on orbit as of Feb. 20, 2014). 11)

The Odin SMR (Sub-Millimeter Radiometer) instrument continues to produce profiles of chemical species relevant to understanding the middle and upper atmosphere. The long-term observation of stratospheric ozone can be useful for trend analysis of chemical ozone loss. 12)

• The Odin spacecraft is operating nominally in the summer of 2013, performing measurements of the OSIRIS instrument >12 years after the launch. 13) 14)

• On Feb. 20, 2012, the Odin spacecraft is 11 years on orbit. After > 60,000 orbits, the satellite still delivers valuable scientific data. 15) 16)

• In early 2012, the Odin spacecraft is operating nominally (both payloads are still working properly and the platform is doing very well). The project has new contracts (from SNSB and ESA) for 2012 to continue spacecraft operations. Odin is a "third party mission" of ESA since 2007. 17)

- From an organizational point of view, the Odin mission is now operated by three companies: SSC, OHB-Sweden and OMNISYS. This is due to the fact that the former Space division of SSC was sold to OHB System in July 2011. Still, the same people are involved. Odin operations are still handled from the radar hill of Esrange, and Odin Mission Control is still located in Stockholm.

• In the fall of 2011, the Odin mission is over 10 years on-orbit (with > 55,000 orbit revolutions in this time period). The main interest is in the atmosphere science mission and the satellite is now in a continuous atmosphere observation mode, interrupted only for calibrations and observations of occasional comets and other irregularly occurring astronomical objects. Routines have settled and the behavior of the spacecraft is well known. Operations are now performed by a minimum of staff validating, monitoring and commanding the satellite. 18)

Odin has outperformed its design lifetime by a factor of five. Scientists are now hoping that Odin will collect atmospheric data continuously over a full solar cycle. After ten years, Odin has to be operated more carefully but this has little impact on the quality of scientific data. Occasional hiccups occur but these are efficiently analyzed and problems are resolved by a team of engineers that can be called in on short notice.

- Why has Odin survived that long ? A major contributor to the long life of Odin is that it does not have any orbit control and hereby does not carry any consumables on-board. Orbit control is a cost in money and spacecraft mass. Odin was launched into a certain sun-synchronous orbit which keeps on developing as time goes by.

- Odin scientists have recently expressed their wish to cover a whole solar cycle. Nothing speaks against this although no promises of course could be given. The fact that the solar cycle 24 was delayed was originally regarded as a good sign as it caused very little orbit decay. On the other hand: the longer cycle the harder to cover it all!

- In 2007 it was decided that further cost savings still were required. The astronomers had covered most of their targets to an extent that additional observation and integration no longer were worth the job. Preparations for Herschel had started and quite a few of the astronomers moved into that project. Hence, Odin became a pure aeronomy satellite which illustrated the importance of not making too many scheduled changes in-orbit. Although aeronomy is demanding data-wise, it became so much easier to operate a satellite servicing only one discipline. As a consequence, the payload reconfigurations became rare events - instead of almost every day in the previous period; this meant less planning and less incidents. Another positive effect was that it opened up for new financial possibilities, in the form of an ESA TPM (Third Party Mission)!

- Only one platform redundancy was taken into usage: Odin has lost only one platform unit, the reaction wheel No 2. It happened in May 2007 exactly when the wheel did change its rotation direction. After the loss of the spacecraft attitude, the problem could fairly quickly be identified by the Odin Control Center and by the Odin Mission Control. One restart attempt was conducted and when the result was unsuccessful, the project switched to the redundant wheel. The satellite itself had only limited attitude control for approximately one night. Despite this incident, all other platform units are working "nominally" as of fall 2011. Not a single reboot of the OBC has occurred since the launch of the spacecraft - for an on-orbit life of > 10.5 years, this is a record in itself.

• The Odin spacecraft is operating nominally as of 2010. The mission completed 9 years in orbit on Feb. 20, 2010. Prior to Odin, there were no water vapor data from 80 km altitude and above and no polar coverage in the upper atmosphere. Odin is the benchmark for measurements over the polar winter hemisphere. 19) 20) 21)

The solar panels are delivering more current than expected, the batteries have been cycled many more times than planned for and the platform and payload redundancy remains with two exceptions: the redundant reaction wheel had to be taken into usage in April 2007 and the 119 GHz receiver has drifted away from its intended frequency. - The orbit of the spacecraft has decayed from the initial orbital altitude of 610 km to ~580 km in early 2009. During 2009 and 2010, an increase in the suns activity is expected; consequently orbit decay will increase.

• The Odin mission is operating nominally as of 2008 providing high-quality spectroscopy data in the optical, mm and sub-mm regions. Odin was designed for a two-year mission and has now outlived the design goal life time by five years.

• As of January 2008, SSC has been commissioned by the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) to control and operate the scientific satellite Odin an additional year, until December 2008. 22)

• In the summer of 2007, Odin was added as an ESA "third party mission". This involved some funding to continue the operations of the mission for the science community. ESA received in return access to all data products from Odin (hence, a larger user community started to use Odin data products). In May 2007, it was also decided to retire Odin's astronomy mission and to devote the rest of the mission time entirely to aeronomy observations only. 23)

• As of 2006, the Odin satellite's mission continues, now in its sixth year. The mission operator, SSC, has a contract for Odin operations until April 30, 2007. However, it is expected that the mission will continue beyond this date as the platform and payload still remain intact. 24) 25) 26) 27)

• The Odin spacecraft and its instruments operated nominally during its projected mission life of two years. In May 2003, the Odin mission was extended. 28) 29)

• The first scientific observations were made in April, 2001 of water emission at 556.936 GHz of the newly discovered comet 2001-A1 LINEAR. Full scientific operation with interleaved astronomy and aeronomy observations was started in October 2001.



Sensor complement: (SMR, OSIRIS)

SMR (Submillimeter wave Radiometer):

SMR is a Swedish instrument in cooperation with Finland (119 GHz channel), and France, (provision of the AOS (Acousto-Optic Spectrometer) detector). SMR is a passive microwave limb sounder with one receiver at a wavelength of 3 mm and additional four bands within the submillimeter range (0.5 - 1.0 mm) corresponding to a frequency range of 486 - 580 GHz. Antenna reflector type: offset Gregorian telescope [off-axis system, 1.1 m diameter, surface roughness: 10 µm rms, material: carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP)]. SMR is used in the astronomy as well as in the atmospheric research mission to detect molecular transitions.

The signal coming from the telescope is routed to the receivers, split and filtered by optics consisting of combinations of mirrors, grids and meshes. Diplexers and sideband filters are based on tunable polarizing Michelson interferometers. The SMR telescope is being equipped with a very flexible cryogenic sub-mm receiver package (cooling to -175º C). The frequency range of 541-581 GHz is covered by three Schottky mixers and a fourth Schottky mixer covers the band 486-504 GHz. A 119 GHz fix-tuned HEMT preamplifier has been installed to allow very sensitive searches for interstellar O2. All receivers are operated in single-sideband mode. 30) 31) 32) 33)


Figure 7: Illustration of the SMR instrument (image credit: SSC)

The five single sideband heterodyne receivers in SMR are continuously switched between a reference source of known signal strength and the signal from the telescope (Dicke switch). The telescope is periodically targeted towards well-known celestial objects. These procedures ensure both stability and good calibration.

Spectral lines: The SMR instrument covers transitions of aeronomical interest from the following molecules: ClO, CO, NO2, N2O, H2O2, HO2, H2O, H218O, NO, HNO3, O3, and O2; and atomic and molecular transitions of astrophysical interest from: Cl, H218O, H2O, H2S, NH3, H2CO, O2, CS, 13CO, H2CS, SO, SO2


Single sideband heterodyne receivers (use of InP material),


118.25 - 119.25 GHz, 486.1 - 503.9 GHz, 541 - 580.4 GHz


100 MHz to 1 GHz


0.1 MHz to 1 MHz


1 K in 1 MHz with S/N = 5 after 15 minutes


Cooled Schottky mixers

Local Oscillators

LO based on Gunn diodes and frequency multipliers


Cooled HEMT low noise amplifiers


two hybrid autocorrelators and one AOS (Acousto-Optic Spectrometer)

Table 1: Specification parameters of SMR


Figure 8: Coverage of species observed by Odin instruments (image credit: SSC)

During the extended development phase, it was evident that the O2 abundance must be considerably lower than theoretically expected. To address this sensitivity problem, a low-noise HEMT preamplifier at 119 GHz was added to the already rather complicated, cryocooled sub-millimeter radiometer system. The Odin O2 search sensitivity in this way was improved by more than an order of magnitude allowing for the first time molecular oxygen to be detected in the interstellar medium. The wide spectral coverage of the Odin radiometer permits extragalactic observations, molecular searches and unbiased spectral scans. Thus, Odin is addressing many of the scientific issues to be studied later in greater detail by the forthcoming Herschel/HIFI.


Figure 9: Block diagram of the SMR instrument (image credit: SNSB, SSC)

Technology: Odin's radio antenna dish has, in fact, the most precise reflecting surface in the world for its particular application. An entirely new tool has been developed to produce dish antennas with such an accurate surface. The same technology has already been used again to make a large antenna for Sirius - a new European telecommunications satellite.


OSIRIS (Optical Spectrograph and Infrared Imaging System):

OSIRIS is a Canadian sensor (CSA, NSERC) built by Routes AstroEngineering Ltd. of Ottawa, Ontario. OSIRIS has a dual-purpose objective of detecting aerosol layers and to detect abundances of species such as O3, NO2, OClO, and BrO (retrieval of altitude profiles of terrestrial atmospheric minor species by observing limb-radiance profiles).

The instrument is a UV/VIS/IR limb sounder, in effect a double instrument, mounted in a common optical housing and supported by common electronics. The UV/VIS imaging spectrograph uses compact reflective optics (off-axis system, folded design, aperture = 36 mm x 36 mm) and an aspherical ruled grating along with UV-enhanced CCD arrays.

The IR imager consists of three infrared telescopes (co-aligned single-lens imagers operating at 1263, 1273, and 1530 nm). The CCD detector, a 1353 x 286 array, is operated in a frame transfer MPP (Multi-Pin-Phase) mode with only 32 rows of the imaging section of the array illuminated by the slit image. Radiation detected outside the slit image provides information on the internal scattering properties of the spectrograph. The detector is passively cooled through a radiator. As OSIRIS is pointed at the limb, the entrance slit to the spectrograph subtends a region 30 km long by 1 km high. Scattered light has been reduced through the use of a beam-fold mirror that is located between the telescope mirror and the entrance slit.

The optical spectrograph (grating spectrometer type) measures species in the altitude range from 15 to 80 km (measurement of atmospheric airglow as well as utilization of the DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy) technique on scattered and subsequently absorbed moonlight). The FOV of the UV/VIS and the IR channels are aligned (and co-aligned with SMR) to produce simultaneous measurements. Instrument mass = 12 kg, power=20W. On-orbit spectral calibration for the UV/VIS instrument is done by observing artificial sources emanating from the Earth, such as discrete lines produced by mercury and sodium street lights. Radiometric calibration is not provided internally. For the IR imager, the IR shutter assembly contains a built-in incandescent lamp providing the radiometric calibration signal. 34) 35) 36) 37) 38)


Figure 10: Illustration of the OSIRIS instrument (image credit: University of Saskatchewan, CSA)

UV/VIS Spectrograph


280 - 800 nm

Wavelength resolution

1 nm from 300-450 nm, < 2nm from 450-800 nm

Slit orientation

perpendicular to the orbit plane (horizontal)


0.02º (vertical) x 0.75º (horizontal) corresponding to 1 km x 40 km on Earth

Spatial resolution

1 km at the limb

Pointing direction

aligned with SMR boresight

AD converter

14 bit

Detector type

Si CCD array (1353 x 286 pixels)

Species to be detected

O3, NO2, BrO, OCLO, O2, aerosols

IR Imager

Bandpass filter center wavelengths

1.263 µm, 1.273 µm, 1.520 µm

Bandwidth (FWHM)

10 nm (1.263 and 1.273), 40 nm (1.520)


118 km (vertical) x 2 km (horizontal)

Spatial resolution

1 km in the vertical direction

Telescope aperture

23 mm diameter

Detector type (linear arrays with hybrid multiplexers)

3 InGaAs, each detector has 128 pixels

Detector pointing direction

in the orbit plane (vertical)

Detector temperature

-40ºC (or less)

Temperature stability during exposure


Table 2: OSIRIS instrument specifications

The infrared imager part of OSIRIS employs 3 separate co-aligned single-lens imagers operating at 1263, 1273, and 1530 nm. The spectral regions are selected using interference filters and the imaging is achieved with one-dimensional InGaAs (128 pixel) linear arrays that are thermoelectrically cooled.


Figure 11: Schematic drawing of the OSIRIS instrument (image credit: Routes AstroEngineering)

The OSIRIS data is processed both to level 1 and 2 at the University of Saskatchewan, Sasketoon, Canada. The processed data is again stored at the PDC (Parallel Data Center) in Stockholm, Sweden.

The archive of the Odin mission is located at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Processing institutes of the Odin mission are:

• Chalmers, Onsala Space Observatory, Sweden

• Meteorological Institute at Stockholm's University, Sweden

• Finnish Meteorological Institute, Sodankylää, Finland

• CNES, Toulouse, France

• Pierre Simon Laplace Institute (IPSL), Paris, France

• Observatory de Bordeaux, France

• University of Saskatchewan, Sasketoon, Canada

• York University, Toronto, Canada.


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35) E. J. Llewellyn, D. A. Degenstein, N. D. Lloyd, R. L. Gattinger, S. Petelina, I. C. McDade, C. S. Haley, B. H. Solheim, C. von Savigny, C. Sioris, W. F. J. Evans, K. Strong, D. P. Murtagh, J. Stegman, "First Results from the OSIRIS Instrument on-board Odin," Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory Publications, Vol. 92, 2003, pp. 41-47

36) W. F. Payne, E. J. Llewellyn, J. S. Matsushita, "OSIRIS: An Imaging Spectrograph for Odin," IAF-95-U.4.11., Proceedings of 46th International Astronautical Congress, Oslo, Norway, 1995.

37) G. D. Warshaw, D. Desaulniers, D. Degenstein, "Optical Design and Performance of the ODIN UV/Visible Spectrograph and Infrared Imager Instrument," Proceedings of the 10th Annual AIAA/Utah State University Conference on Small Satellites, Sept. 16-19, 1996

38) "OSIRIS at the forefront of the study of ozone depletion," CSA, March 14, 2007, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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