The Water Recovery X-Ray Rocket (WRXR) was a suborbital rocket payload that was launched and recovered in April 2018. The WRXR flew two technologies being developed for future large x-ray missions: x-ray reflection gratings and a hybrid CMOS detector (HCD). The large-format replicated gratings on the WRXR were measured in ground calibrations to have absolute single-order diffraction efficiency of ∼60 % , ∼50 % , and ∼35 % at CVI, OVII, and OVIII emission energies, respectively. The HCD was operated with ∼6 e − read noise and ∼88 eV energy resolution at 0.5 keV. The WRXR was also part of a two-payload campaign that successfully demonstrated NASA sounding rocket water recovery technology for science payloads. The primary instrument, a soft x-ray grating spectrometer, targeted diffuse emission from the Vela supernova remnant over a field-of-view >10 deg2. The flight data show that the detector was operational during flight and detected x-ray events from an on-board calibration source, but there was no definitive detection of x-ray events from Vela. Flight results are presented along with a discussion of factors that could have contributed to the null detection.
Astronomical X-ray diffraction gratings are a key technology under development for current and future NASA missions. X-ray reflection gratings, developed at Penn State University, have recently demonstrated both leading diffraction efficiency and high spectral resolving power. However, recent results are the result of different fabrication techniques and a single technique has not yet been developed to yield a grating that satisfies both the diffraction efficiency and resolving power required by future missions. Here we seek to leverage exiting electron-beam lithographic techniques to produce a grating with groove groove pattern capable of high resolving power. We then introduce new ion-milling techniques to create custom groove profiles capable of high diffraction efficiency. The goal is to produce a radial groove pattern with precisely blazed facets that are customizable based on ion mill input parameters. The process should be insensitive to groove density (ranging from ~150 nm to 400+ nm), facet size, and desired facet angle. Initial efforts in this study have concentrated on constraining various parameters in ion milling to fully characterize the effect of each parameter on the grating groove profile. We present here initial results and discuss experimental verification and future work.