The Ganymede laser altimeter (GALA): key objectives, instrument design, and performance

Hussmann, Hauke; Lingenauber, Kay; Kallenbach, Reinald; Enya, Keigo; Thomas, Nicolas; Lara, Luisa M.; Althaus, Christian; Araki, Hiroshi; Behnke, Thomas; Castro-Marin, Jose M.; Eisenmenger, Henri; Gerber, Thomas; Herranz de la Revilla, Miguel; Hüttig, Christian; Ishibashi, Ko; Jiménez-Ortega, Jaime; Kimura, Jun; Kobayashi, Masanori; Lötzke, Horst-Georg; Lichopoj, Alexander; ... (2019). The Ganymede laser altimeter (GALA): key objectives, instrument design, and performance. CEAS space journal, 11(4), pp. 381-390. Springer 10.1007/s12567-019-00282-8

s12567-019-00282-8.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (950kB) | Preview

The Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) is one of the ten scientific instruments selected for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission currently implemented under responsibility of the European Space Agency (ESA). JUICE is scheduled for launch in mid 2022; arrival at Jupiter will be by end of 2029 with the nominal science mission—including close flybys at Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto and a Ganymede orbit phase—ending by mid 2033. GALA’s main objective is to obtain topographic data of the icy satellites of Jupiter: Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. By measuring the diurnal tidal deformation of Ganymede, which crucially depends on the decoupling of the surface ice layer from the deep interior by a liquid water ocean, GALA will obtain evidence for (or against) a subsurface ocean in a 500 km orbit around the satellite and will provide constraints on Ganymede’s ice shell thickness. In combination with other instruments, it will characterize the morphology of surface units on Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto providing not only topography but also surface roughness and albedo (at 1064 nm) measurements. GALA is a single-beam laser altimeter operating with up to 50 Hz (nominal 30 Hz) shot frequency at a wavelength of 1064 nm and pulse lengths of 5.5 ± 2.5 ns using a Nd:YAG laser. The return pulse is detected by an Avalanche Photo Diode (APD) with 100 MHz bandwidth and is digitized at a sampling rate of 200 MHz providing range measurements with a subsample resolution of 0.1 m and surface roughness measurements from pulse-shape analysis on the scale of the footprint size of about 50 m at 500 km altitude. The instrument is developed in collaboration of institutes and industry from Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and Spain.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > NCCR PlanetS

UniBE Contributor:

Thomas, Nicolas, Gerber, Thomas


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering








Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

04 Feb 2020 15:40

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2023 00:25

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback