The E18 Space Detector Systems (SDS) group was founded in early 2012 as part of the Institute of Hadronic Structure and Fundamental Symmetries (E18). The Institute is part of Technische Universität München's (TUM) Physics Department and is situated in Garching near Munich, Germany.
While researchers at E18 usually try to solve the mysteries of subatomic particles – using accelerator facilities at CERN and in Japan – the at that time recent discovery of antiprotons trapped in Earth’s radiation belts in the summer of 2011 provided the initial idea for a quite different project.
When asked about potential CubeSat-sized payloads, the head of the institute, Prof. Dr. Stephan Paul, had the idea to build a miniaturized particle detector that would be able to measure the flux of antiprotons circling the planet while in low-Earth orbit. Although such a device would not be able to directly compete with high-profile experiments like AMS-02 on the space station, it could nevertheless provide new data in the very-low-energy region that is not accessible by any other experiment in orbit today.
Inspired by the successful efforts of other groups at TUM to provide hands-on education to young students, Prof. Paul decided to pursue the idea in the form of a student project. Together with one of his students, he gathered a small team of dedicated undergraduate students eager to gain practical research experience.
Today, E18 SDS has broadened its research objectives and recently focused on developing a multi-purpose detector for monitoring radiation in space (see MAPT). However, the detection of antiprotons in low-Earth orbit still remains the long-term goal of the group (see AFIS).
The group is also part of the Research Area D of the DFG Cluster of Excellence Origin and Structure of the Universe, also situated in Garching, Germany.