The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, also designated AMS-02, is a particle
physics experiment module that is mounted on the International Space
Station (ISS). The module is a detector that measures antimatter in
cosmic rays, this information is needed to understand the formation of
Universe and search for evidence of dark matter.
The principal investigator is
Nobel laureate particle physicist Samuel
Ting. The launch of
Space Shuttle Endeavour flight
AMS-02 took place on 16 May 2011, and the spectrometer was installed
on 19 May 2011. By April 15, 2015, AMS-02 had recorded over 60
billion cosmic ray events and 90 billion after five years of
operation since its installation in May 2011.
In March 2013, at a seminar at CERN, Professor
Samuel Ting reported
that AMS had observed over 400,000 positrons, with the positron to
electron fraction increasing from 10
GeV to 250 GeV. (Later results
have shown a decrease in positron fraction at energies over about 275
GeV). There was "no significant variation over time, or any preferred
incoming direction. These results are consistent with the positrons
originating from the annihilation of dark matter particles in space,
but not yet sufficiently conclusive to rule out other explanations."
The results have been published in Physical Review Letters.
Additional data are still being collected.
2 Installation on the International Space Station
5 Scientific goals
5.2 Dark matter
5.4 Space radiation environment
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
The alpha magnetic spectrometer was proposed in 1995 by MIT particle
physicist Samuel Ting, not long after the cancellation of the
Superconducting Super Collider. The proposal was accepted and Ting
became the principal investigator.
AMS-01 flew in space in June 1998 aboard the
Space Shuttle Discovery
on STS-91. It is visible near the rear of the payload bay.
A detail view of the AMS-01 module (center) mounted in the shuttle
payload bay for the
An AMS prototype designated AMS-01, a simplified version of the
detector, was built by the international consortium under Ting's
direction and flown into space aboard the
Space Shuttle Discovery on
STS-91 in June 1998. By not detecting any antihelium the AMS-01
established an upper limit of 1.1×10−6 for the antihelium to helium
flux ratio and proved that the detector concept worked in space.
This shuttle mission was the last shuttle flight to the
AMS-02 during integration and testing at
CERN near Geneva.
After the flight of the prototype, Ting began the development of a
full research system designated AMS-02. This development effort
involved the work of 500 scientists from 56 institutions and 16
countries organized under
United States Department of Energy
United States Department of Energy (DOE)
The instrument which eventually resulted from a long evolutionary
process has been called "the most sophisticated particle detector ever
sent into space", rivaling very large detectors used at major particle
accelerators, and has cost four times as much as any of its
ground-based counterparts. Its goals have also evolved and been
refined over time. As it is built as a more comprehensive detector,
which has a better chance of discovering evidence of dark matter along
The power requirements for AMS-02 were thought to be too great for a
practical independent spacecraft. So AMS-02 was designed to be
installed as an external module on the
International Space Station
International Space Station and
use power from the ISS. The post-
Space Shuttle Columbia plan was to
deliver AMS-02 to the
ISS by space shuttle in 2005 on station assembly
mission UF4.1, but technical difficulties and shuttle scheduling
issues added more delays.
AMS-02 successfully completed final integration and operational
Geneva, Switzerland which included exposure to
energetic proton beams generated by the
CERN SPS particle
accelerator. AMS-02 was then shipped by specialist haulier to
European Space Research and Technology Centre
European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) facility
Netherlands where it arrived 16 February 2010. Here it
underwent thermal vacuum, electromagnetic compatibility and
electromagnetic interference testing. AMS-02 was scheduled for
delivery to the
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center in Florida, United States. in
late May 2010. This was however postponed to August 26, as AMS-02
underwent final alignment beam testing at CERN.
AMS-02 during final alignment testing at
CERN just days before being
airlifted to Cape Canaveral.
Beamline from SPS feeding 20
GeV positrons to AMS for alignment
testing at the time of the picture.
A cryogenic, superconducting magnet system was developed for the
Obama administration plans to extend International Space
Station operations beyond 2015, the decision was made by AMS
management to exchange the AMS-02 superconducting magnet for the
non-superconducting magnet previously flown on AMS-01. Although the
non-superconducting magnet has a weaker field strength, its on-orbit
operational time at
ISS is expected to be 10 to 18 years versus only
three years for the superconducting version. In January 2014 it
was announced that funding for the
ISS had been extended until
In 1999, after the successful flight of AMS-01, the total cost of the
AMS program was estimated to be $33 million, with AMS-02 planned for
flight to the
ISS in 2003. After the
Space Shuttle Columbia
disaster in 2003, and after a number of technical difficulties with
the construction of AMS-02, the cost of the program ballooned to an
estimated $2 billion.
Installation on the International Space Station
A computer generated image showing AMS-02 mounted to the
ISS S3 Upper
Inboard Payload Attach Site.
Location of the AMS on the
International Space Station
International Space Station (upper left).
AMS-02 installed on the ISS.
For several years it was uncertain if AMS-02 would ever be launched
because it was not manifested to fly on any of the remaining Space
Shuttle flights. After the 2003 Columbia disaster
NASA decided to
reduce shuttle flights and retire the remaining shuttles by 2010. A
number of flights were removed from the remaining manifest including
the flight for AMS-02. In 2006
NASA studied alternative ways of
delivering AMS-02 to the space station, but they all proved to be too
In May 2008 a bill was proposed to launch AMS-02 to
ISS on an
additional shuttle flight in 2010 or 2011. The bill was passed by
the full House of Representatives on 11 June 2008. The bill then
went before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
where it also passed. It was then amended and passed by the full
Senate on 25 September 2008, and was passed again by the House on 27
September 2008. It was signed by President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush on 15
October 2008. The bill authorized
NASA to add another space
shuttle flight to the schedule before the space shuttle program was
discontinued. In January 2009
NASA restored AMS-02 to the shuttle
manifest. On 26 August 2010, AMS-02 was delivered from
CERN to the
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center by a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy.
It was delivered to the
International Space Station
International Space Station on May 19, 2011 as
part of station assembly flight ULF6 on shuttle flight STS-134,
commanded by Mark Kelly. It was removed from the shuttle cargo bay
using the shuttle's robotic arm and handed off to the station's
robotic arm for installation. AMS-02 is mounted on top of the
Integrated Truss Structure, on USS-02, the zenith side of the
S3-element of the truss.
Mass: 8,500 kg
Power: 2,500 W
Internal data rate: 7 Gbit/s
Data rate to ground: 2 Mbit/s (typical, average)
Primary mission duration: 10 to 18 years
Magnetic field intensity: 0.15 teslas produced by a 1,200 kg
permanent neodymium magnet
Original superconducting magnet: 2 coils of niobium-titanium at
1.8 K producing a central field of 0.87 teslas
AMS-02 flight magnet changed to non-superconducting AMS-01 version to
extend experiment life and to solve reliability problems in the
operation of the superconducting system
About 1,000 cosmic rays are recorded by the instrument per second,
generating about one GB/sec of data. This data is filtered and
compressed to about 300 kB/sec for download to the operation center
POCC at CERN.
The detector module consists of a series of detectors that are used to
determine various characteristics of the radiation and particles as
they pass through. Characteristics are determined only for particles
that pass through from top to bottom. Particles that enter the
detector at any other angles are rejected. From top to bottom the
subsystems are identified as:
Transition radiation detector measures the velocities of the highest
Upper time of flight counter, along with the lower time of flight
counter, measures the velocities of lower energy particles;
Star tracker determines the orientation of the module in space;
Silicon tracker measures the coordinates of charged particles in the
Permanent magnet bends the path of charged particles so they can be
Anti-coincidence counter rejects stray particles that enter through
Ring imaging Cherenkov detector
Ring imaging Cherenkov detector measures velocity of fast particles
with extreme accuracy;
Electromagnetic calorimeter measures the total energy of the
The AMS-02 will use the unique environment of space to advance
knowledge of the
Universe and lead to the understanding of its origin
by searching for antimatter, dark matter and measuring cosmic
See also: Antimatter
Experimental evidence indicates that our galaxy is made of matter;
however, scientists believe there are about 100–200 billion galaxies
Universe and some versions of the
Big Bang theory of the origin
Universe require equal amounts of matter and antimatter.
Theories that explain this apparent asymmetry violate other
measurements. Whether or not there is significant antimatter is one of
the fundamental questions of the origin and nature of the Universe.
Any observations of an antihelium nucleus would provide evidence for
the existence of antimatter in space. In 1999, AMS-01 established a
new upper limit of 10−6 for the antihelium/helium flux ratio in the
Universe. AMS-02 will search with a sensitivity of 10−9, an
improvement of three orders of magnitude over AMS-01, sufficient to
reach the edge of the expanding
Universe and resolve the issue
See also: Dark matter
The visible matter in the Universe, such as stars, adds up to less
than 5 percent of the total mass that is known to exist from many
other observations. The other 95 percent is dark, either dark matter,
which is estimated at 20 percent of the
Universe by weight, or dark
energy, which makes up the balance. The exact nature of both still is
unknown. One of the leading candidates for dark matter is the
neutralino. If neutralinos exist, they should be colliding with each
other and giving off an excess of charged particles that can be
detected by AMS-02. Any peaks in the background positron, antiproton,
or gamma ray flux could signal the presence of neutralinos or other
dark matter candidates, but would need to be distinguished from poorly
known confounding astrophysical signals.
See also: Strangelet
Six types of quarks (up, down, strange, charm, bottom and top) have
been found experimentally; however, the majority of matter on Earth is
made up of only up and down quarks. It is a fundamental question
whether there exists stable matter made up of strange quarks in
combination with up and down quarks. Particles of such matter are
known as strangelets. Strangelets might have extremely large mass and
very small charge-to-mass ratios. It would be a totally new form of
matter. AMS-02 may determine whether this extraordinary matter exists
in our local environment.
Space radiation environment
Cosmic radiation during transit is a significant obstacle to sending
humans to Mars. Accurate measurements of the cosmic ray environment
are needed to plan appropriate countermeasures. Most cosmic ray
studies are done by balloon-borne instruments with flight times that
are measured in days; these studies have shown significant variations.
AMS-02 will be operative on the ISS, gathering a large amount of
accurate data and allowing measurements of the long term variation of
the cosmic ray flux over a wide energy range, for nuclei from protons
to iron. In addition to the understanding the radiation protection
required for astronauts during interplanetary flight, this data will
allow the interstellar propagation and origins of cosmic rays to be
In July 2012, it was reported that AMS-02 had observed over 18 billion
In February 2013,
Samuel Ting acknowledged that he would be publishing
the first scholarly paper in a few weeks, and that in its first 18
months of operation AMS had recorded 25 billion particle events
including nearly eight billion fast electrons and positrons. The
AMS paper reported the positron-electron ratio in the mass range of
0.5 to 350 GeV, providing evidence about the weakly interacting
massive particle (WIMP) model of dark matter.
On 30 March 2013, the first results from the AMS experiment were
announced by the
CERN press office. The
first physics results were published in
Physical Review Letters on 3
April 2013. A total of 6.8×106 positron and electron events were
collected in the energy range from 0.5 to 350 GeV. The positron
fraction (of the total electron plus positron events) steadily
increased from energies of 10 to 250 GeV, but the slope decreased
by an order of magnitude above 20 GeV, even though the fraction of
positrons still increased. There was no fine structure in the positron
fraction spectrum, and no anisotropies were observed. The accompanying
Physics Viewpoint said that "The first results from the
space-borne Alpha Magnetic
Spectrometer confirm an unexplained excess
of high-energy positrons in Earth-bound cosmic rays." These results
are consistent with the positrons originating from the annihilation of
dark matter particles in space, but not yet sufficiently conclusive to
rule out other explanations.
Samuel Ting said “Over the coming
months, AMS will be able to tell us conclusively whether these
positrons are a signal for dark matter, or whether they have some
On September 18, 2014, new results with almost twice as much data were
presented in a talk at
CERN and published in Physical Review
Letters. A new measurement of positron fraction up to 500
GeV was reported, showing that positron fraction peaks at a maximum of
about 16% of total electron+positron events, around an energy of 275
± 32 GeV. At higher energies, up to 500 GeV, the ratio of positrons
to electrons begins to fall again.
AMS presented for 3 days at
CERN in April 2015, covering new data on
300 million proton events and helium flux. It revealed in December
2016 that it had discovered a few signals consistent with antihelium
nuclei amidst several billion helium nuclei. The result remains to be
verified, and the team is currently trying to rule out
List of space telescopes
List of space telescopes (Astronomical Space Observatories)
Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei
Astrophysics (PAMELA) – an Italian-international cosmic ray mission
launched in 2006 with similar goals
Scientific research on the ISS
This article incorporates public domain material from the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration document "AMS project
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
AMS Collaboration Homepage
AMS Homepage at CERN. Inc. construction diagrams.
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NASA AMS-02 Project Fact Sheet
NASA AMS-02 Project Home Page with real-time cosmic ray count
An animated movie of the
STS-134 mission showing the installation of
Spectrometer – image collection – AMS-02 on
A Costly Quest for the Dark Heart of the Cosmos (New York Times, 16
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Weixing 4 · Chuang Xin 1C
AsiaSat 7 Mars Science
IGS Radar 3 Pléiades-HR 1A ·
SSOT · ELISA 1 · ELISA 2 · ELISA 3 · ELISA
Soyuz TMA-03M Ziyuan-1C
Meridian 5 Globalstar
M080 · Globalstar M082 · Globalstar M084 ·
Globalstar M086 · Globalstar M090 · Globalstar M092
Payloads are separated by bullets ( · ), launches by pipes (
). Manned flights are indicated in bold text. Uncatalogued launch
failures are listed in italics. Payloads deployed from other
spacecraft are denoted in