SRON scientist dr. Peter Roelfsema has been appointed Principal Investigator for SAFARI, the European space instrument proposed for the Japanese space telescope SPICA, with a planned launch date in 2018. SAFARI will be a far-Infrared imaging spectrometer exploiting the sensitivity of the SPICA telescope, which will hunt for frozen water in protoplanetary systems.
As Principal Investigator (PI) Peter Roelfsema is responsible for the further development and testing of the SAFARI instrument as a whole. Roelfsema is the successor of SRON scientist dr. Frank Helmich, who will concentrate on his work as Principal Investigator for HIFI, the molecule hunter which has been developed and built under the lead of SRON and was launched in May 2009. As program scientist Helmich will continue to work on the (future) scientific output of both HIFI and SAFARI.
With its superb spectral resolution HIFI is ideally suited to detect and characterize molecular lines. But HIFI ‘sees’ only a small part of the night sky. With its 6000 pixels SAFARI will actually be an ‘infrared camera’ which can take real ‘pictures’ of the heavens in three adjoining wavelengths. SPICA-SAFARI will look for frozen water in protoplanetary systems to discover to what effect this influences the formation and evolution of stars and planets.
SAFARI will therefore be fitted with the extremely sensitive TES-detectors, which have been developed by SRON as well. To obtain spectral information a Fourier Transform Spectrometer (FTS) is used, the mechanism of which is developed by TNO.
Career in space research
Roelfsema’s career in space research has been a long and fruitful one. He started developing software to support the data analysis for the IRAS satellite. In a later stage he became involved in the conceptual and design stages of the Herschel Ground Segment. In parallel to that he took up the position of Herschel-HIFI Instrument Control Centre manager, defining the operations team, setting it up and managing it’s development up to launch, including creating close working relations with the HIFI science consortium.
Shortly after the delivery of the HIFI instrument to ESA Roelfsema became overall HIFI project manager. It was under his lead that the HIFI team – jointly with a number of ESA experts – unraveled and corrected the HIFI LCU malfunction. Since then the HIFI instrument has been continuously producing excellent quality science data.
The leadership in the development of the SAFARI instrument has been transferred to Roelfsema at the last SAFARI consortium meeting at October 5-7 in Madrid.