Thale cress, crystal growth, alloy solidification and chemical reactions in microgravity

MASER is a sounding rocket program for carrying out scientific experiments in microgravity. The programme is developed and managed by SSC. MASER 13 is scheduled for launch from Esrange Space Center in November 2015


MASER (MAterial Science Experiment Rocket) programme was started by SSC in 1985, initially in order to increase the flight opportunities for microgravity experiments after the Challenger space shuttle catastrophe. The first launch took place in 1987, providing 7 minutes of microgravity with almost 300 km apogee, and used of a guidance system which is compulsory for such high trajectories. Since the start twelve MASER rockets have been launched from Esrange, with 4-7 experiments per mission. The flights have provided 6-7 minutes of low microgravity levels used as a tool for scientific research in various disciplines - such as fluid science, material science and bio science. Without the presence of gravity, different behaviours of processes and substances can be studied. Moreover, experiments in non-gravity conditions often help scientists to validate their theoretical models.

Within MASER programme, SSC designs and builds experiment modules according to the experiment requirements established by the Science Teams. In this work SSC often subcontracts major tasks to experienced European companies specialised in e.g. optical or mechanical systems.

SSC, with the support of DLR MORABA,  also provides the Flight Ticket services for the missions, including payload  assembly and tests, service and recovery systems and  of course also the launch campaign and the flight.


MASER 13 project was started in 2013 under ESA contract with the preliminary design of the four experiment modules BIM-3, CDIC-3, XRMON-SOL and later also MEDI. With the completion and readiness of all four experiment modules in August 2015, verification tests on integrated payload  level will be carried out in SSC’s facilities in Stockholm in September 2015, with launch scheduled for November.


See photos from the project here

MASER 13 poster (pdf)


General information

Launch site

Esrange Space Center

Launch date

Launched 1 December 2015 at 06.00 LT



Prime contractor


Technical information

Rocket type

VSB 30 rocket

Nominal diameter

557 mm, 17 inch

Total payload mass and length

404 kg, 530 cm

Total scientific payload mass

277 kg, 355 cm


260 km


> 6 min

Scientific payload  

Experiment module

Experiment name, description and investigator

Mass, length



CHYPI-MARCHE  Chemo-hydrodynamic patterns and instabilities
A. de Wit et al.
Université Libre de Bruxelles

73 kg, 96 cm

Fluid science
Down-linked video


GRAMAT  Isolation of mRNA to identify gravity related gene expression
SPARC  A Specialized Phospholipase A, and Relocalisation in auxin-transporting cells in microgravity
Klaus Palme et al. FRIAS, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

54 kg, 65 cm

Two biological plant experiments with  Arabidopsis thaliana (English: Thale cress, Swedish: Backtrav)


CETSOL-MEDI, Multiple Equiaxed Dendrite Interaction
L. Sturz et al.  ACCESS e. V. Aachen

56 kg, 60 cm

Chrystal growth
Down-linked video


XRMON-SOLIDIFICATION In-site X-ray monitoring of advanced metallurgical processes under microgravity and terrestrial conditions
D. Browne
University College of Dublin

99 kg, 114 cm

Isothermal solidification
In-situ X-ray observation
Down-linked video

For information on the experiment module, click the names in left column

Technical passengers


Passenger name, description

Total system mass



Inertial Measurement Unit Bread Board, test of overall IMU performance in flight representative environment

3 kg

System is stand-alone and located in payload adapter


The Industrial group

MASER 13 mission is carried out by SSC under ESA contract. The industrial group performing the work consists of SSC in the role of Prime, and the experienced Sub-contractors Airbus DS in Bremen, RUAG Space Systems in Nyon, DTM in Modena, Techno System developments in Pozzuoli, Naples as well as Lambda-X in Nivelles, Brussels, who all have developed major parts of the experiment modules.

DLR MORABA in Oberfaffenhofen, Munich, contribute largely to the Flight Ticket part of the mission, such as rocket motor systems, recovery system, rate control system, flight analysis and ground telemetry system.

Experiment module

Involved industry


Lambda-X (BE)


Techno System Developments (IT)


RUAG Space Systems (CH)


Airbus DS (DE)




The payload consists of the four experiment modules and the service systems, which are the MASM Service Module, ERS Recovery System with nose cone, Balancing Ring with GPS receiver and flight observation camera and finally the payload adapter which interfaces to the motor.

M13 payload

Contact persons:

Gunnar Florin, Project Manager (SSC)

Torbjörn Eld, Project Manager for the preparatory work of the ground support facilies at ESC (SSC)

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