PAMELA is a satellite borne experiment designed to study with great accuracy cosmic rays of galactic, solar, and trapped nature in a wide energy range (protons 80 MeV-700 GeV, electrons 50 MeV-400 GeV). Main objective is the study of the antimatter component: antiprotons (80 MeV-190 GeV), positrons (50 MeV-270 GeV) and search for antimatter with a precision of the order of 10-8. The experiment, housed on board the Russian Resurs-DK I satellite, was launched on June 15th, 2006 in a 350 x 600 km orbit with all inclination of 70'. The detector is composed of a series of scintillator counters arranged at the extremities of a permanent magnet spectrometer to provide charge, time-of-flight, and rigidity information. Lepton/hadron identification is performed by a silicon-tungsten calorimeter and a neutron detector placed at the bottom of the device. An anticounter system is used offline to reject false triggers coming from the satellite. In self-trigger mode the calorimeter, the neutron detector, and a shower tail catcher are capable of an independent measure of the lepton component up to 2 TeV. In this work we describe the experiment, its scientific objectives, and the performance in the first months after launch. (c) 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of COSPAR.
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