The Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) technology has been established as a new type of X-ray optics enabling future X-ray observatories such as ATHENA. SPO is being developed at cosine together with the European Space Agency (ESA) and academic as well as industrial partners. The SPO modules are lightweight, yet stiff, high-resolution X-ray optics, allowing missions to reach a large effective area of several square meters. These properties of the optics are mainly linked to the mirror plates consisting of mono-crystalline silicon. Silicon is rigid, has a relatively low density, a very good thermal conductivity and excellent surface finish, both in terms of figure and surface roughness. For Athena, a large number of mirror plates is required, around 100,000 for the nominal configuration. With the technology spin-in from the semiconductor industry, mass production processes can be employed to manufacture rectangular shapes SPO mirror plates in high quality, large quantity and at low cost. Within the last years, several aspects of the SPO mirror plate have been reviewed and undergone further developments in terms of effective area, intrinsic behavior of the mirror plates and mass production capability. In view of flight model production, a second source of mirror plates has been added in addition to the first plate supplier. The paper will provide an overview of most recent plate design, metrology and production developments.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing the Athena (Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics) X-ray telescope, an L-class mission in their current Cosmic Vision cycle for long-term planning of space science missions. Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) are a new type of X-ray optics enabling future X-ray observatories such as Athena and are being developed at cosine with ESA as well as academic and industrial partners. These high-performance, modular, lightweight yet stiff, high-resolution X-ray optics shall allow missions to reach an unprecedentedly large effective area of several square meters, operating in the 0.2 to 12 keV band with an angular resolution better than 5 arc seconds. As the development of Athena mission progresses, it is necessary to validate the SPO technology under launch conditions. To this end, ruggedisation and environmental testing studies are being conducted to ensure mechanical stability and optical performance of the optics before, during and after launch. At cosine, a facility with shock, vibration, tensile strength, long time storage and thermal testing equipment has been set up to test SPO mirror module components for compliance with the upcoming Ariane launch vehicle and the mission requirements. In this paper, we report on the progress of our ongoing investigations regarding tests on mechanical and thermal stability of mirror module components such as single SPO stacks complete mirror modules of inner (R = 250 mm), middle (R = 737 mm) and outer (R = 1500 mm) radii.
Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) uses commercially available monocrystalline double-sided super-polished silicon wafers as a basis to produce mirrors that form lightweight and stiff high-resolution x-ray optics. The technology has been invented by cosine and the European Space Agency (ESA) and developed together with scientific and industrial partners to mass production levels. SPO is an enabling element for large space-based x-ray telescopes such as Athena and ARCUS, operating in the 0.2 to 12 keV band, with angular resolution requirements up to 5 arc seconds. SPO has also shown to be a versatile technology that can be further developed for gamma-ray optics, medical applications and for material research. This paper will summarise the status of the technology and of the mass production capabilities, show latest performance results and discuss the next steps in the development.
Silicon Pore Optic (SPO) is the X-ray mirror technology selected for the Athena X-ray observatory. The optic is modular; in the current design, it is made of about 700 co-aligned mirror modules. SPO is produced as stacks of 35 mirror plates, which are then paired to form X-ray Optics Units (XOUs) following a modified Wolter I geometry. A mirror module is composed of two confocal XOUs bonded in between a pair of brackets allowing interfacing to the mirror structure. Mirror modules are assembled using the XPBF 2.0 beamline of PTB at the synchrotron radiation facility BESSY II, using pencil beam and dedicated jigs. In this paper we present the challenges and solutions related to making confocal mirror modules.
Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) is an enabling technology for future large-area space-based X-ray observatories, such as ESA's Athena mission and NASA's Arcus candidate mission. SPO consist of stacks of thin silicon mirrors, which together provide a large effective area with a relatively low mass. Stacks are produced by custom robots that bend the mirrors into the design shape and stack them. We discuss the latest developments in improving the stacking process. The main challenge is to minimize shape deviations in order to optimize the imaging resolution of the optic. During the stacking process, the shape of each plate is measured directly after it is added to a stack. This metrology allows us to quickly quantify the effect of different stacking recipes, which streamlines the development. We discuss recent improvements in reducing excess meridional curvature. Furthermore, we prepare for mass-production by optimizing the robotics for performance and reproducibility.
Silicon Pore Optics is the X-ray mirror technology selected for the European Space Agency's Athena X-ray observatory. We describe the X-ray testing and characterization cycle that the optics are subjected to at the PTB's X-ray Pencil/Paraller Beam Facility (XPBF) 1 and 2 beamlines at the synchrotron radiation facility BESSY II. Individual stacks are measured with a pencil beam to determine their optical quality and the orientation of the optical axis. Using metrics based on X-ray and manufacturing metrology, stacks are then paired in primary-secondary Wolter-I-like systems, that are in turn characterized to determine their optical performance. Finally, four stacks, two primaries and two secondaries, are assembled into a mirror module, that is also characterized, with pencil and wide X-ray beams. At each step models, metrology, and software are combined to arrive at the relevant parameters. We describe the methods used, and illustrate how the performance of imaging pairs can be described in terms of stack-level parameters.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) is a mission concept which was proposed to ESA as M3 and M4 candidate in the framework of the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument and the uniquely large field of view of its wide field monitor, LOFT will be able to study the behaviour of matter in extreme conditions such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions close to black holes and neutron stars and the supra-nuclear densities in the interiors of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, >8m<sup>2</sup> effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1 degree collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g., GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the current technical and programmatic status of the mission.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) was studied within ESA M3 Cosmic Vision framework and participated in the final downselection for a launch slot in 2022-2024. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument, LOFT will study the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions, such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions of accretion flows close to black holes and neutron stars, and the supranuclear densities in the interior of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, 10 m<sup>2 </sup> effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1° collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g. GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the status of the mission at the end of its Phase A study.
The LOFT mission concept is one of four candidates selected by ESA for the M3 launch opportunity as Medium Size missions of the Cosmic Vision programme. The launch window is currently planned for between 2022 and 2024. LOFT is designed to exploit the diagnostics of rapid X-ray flux and spectral variability that directly probe the motion of matter down to distances very close to black holes and neutron stars, as well as the physical state of ultradense matter. These primary science goals will be addressed by a payload composed of a Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM). The LAD is a collimated (<1 degree field of view) experiment operating in the energy range 2-50 keV, with a 10 m<sup>2</sup> peak effective area and an energy resolution of 260 eV at 6 keV. The WFM will operate in the same energy range as the LAD, enabling simultaneous monitoring of a few-steradian wide field of view, with an angular resolution of <5 arcmin. The LAD and WFM experiments will allow us to investigate variability from submillisecond QPO’s to yearlong transient outbursts. In this paper we report the current status of the project.