PackMan: A portable instrument to study space weather

Thasshwin Mathanlal, Abhilash Vakkada Ramachandran, Maria Paz Zorzano, Javier Martin-Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Earth's atmosphere is continuously bombarded by energetic charged particles and high energy photons from space. To date, there is a missing gap of information regarding the amount, energy, time variability, and type of space radiation that reaches the lower layers of the atmosphere, as well as on its geographic and altitude distribution and the implications on infrastructures and climate. To generate a long-time, multiple-site, open-access record of space radiation on Earth we have designed PACKMAN (PArticle Counter k-index Magnetic ANomaly): an open source, autonomous instrument, with Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) components. PACKMAN is a robust and light instrument that monitors gamma, beta, alpha radiation and muons and includes environmental sensors to monitor pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and magnetic perturbations. PACKMAN has operated at different latitudes: 1) Space campus LTU, Kiruna, Sweden (67.84°N, 20.41°E, 390 m); 2) LTU Main campus, Luleå, Sweden (65.62°N, 22.14°E, 15 m); 3) University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (55.94°N, 3.19°W, 98 m); 4) Boulby Mine, United Kingdom (54.56°N, 0.82°W, 93 m and -1.1 km), 5) University of Akureyri, Iceland (65.68°N,18.12°W, 23m); and two PACKMAN units have been flown in balloons to the stratosphere: 6) Cordoba airport, Spain (37.84°N, 4.84°W, 90 m to 27 km); and 7) Esrange Space Center, Sweden (67.88°N, 21.12°E, 328 m to 27 km). In this work, we describe the design and operation of these instruments, and show examples of scientific observations. The data are compared to various ground based and orbiter instruments such as the magnetic field observations from Hartland station magnetometers, the Kp global index from GFZ-Potsdam and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-15 Magnetometer. During the flight in two stratospheric balloon campaigns, PACKMAN captured the Pfotzer maximum and its variation in height depending on latitude, time and season and reaching altitudes of 10 km. While operating down at 1.1km below the surface, in the Boulby Mine (U.K), PACKMAN has recorded the magnetic anomaly occurring due to geomagnetic storm activity and the results are presented quantitatively.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event69th International Astronautical Congress: #InvolvingEveryone, IAC 2018 - Bremen, Germany
Duration: Oct 1 2018Oct 5 2018


  • Earth observation
  • Magnetic anomaly
  • Radiation
  • Space weather
  • Stratosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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