The eXTP (enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry) mission is a major project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and China National Space Administration (CNSA) currently performing an extended phase A study and proposed for a launch by 2025 in a low-earth orbit. The eXTP scientific payload envisages a suite of instruments (Spectroscopy Focusing Array, Polarimetry Focusing Array, Large Area Detector and Wide Field Monitor) offering unprecedented simultaneous wide-band X-ray spectral, timing and polarimetry sensitivity. A large European consortium is contributing to the eXTP study and it is expected to provide key hardware elements, including a Large Area Detector (LAD). The LAD instrument for eXTP is based on the design originally proposed for the LOFT mission within the ESA context. The eXTP/LAD envisages a deployed 3.4 m2 effective area in the 2-30 keV energy range, achieved through the technology of the large-area Silicon Drift Detectors - offering a spectral resolution of up to 200 eV FWHM at 6 keV - and of capillary plate collimators - limiting the field of view to about 1 degree. In this paper we provide an overview of the LAD instrument design, including new elements with respect to the earlier LOFT configuration.
We describe the Spectroscopic Time-Resolving Observatory for Broadband Energy X-rays (STROBE-X), a probeclass mission concept that will provide an unprecedented view of the X-ray sky, performing timing and spectroscopy over both a broad energy band (0.2–30 keV) and a wide range of timescales from microseconds to years. STROBE-X comprises two narrow-field instruments and a wide field monitor. The soft or low-energy band (0.2–12 keV) is covered by an array of lightweight optics (3-m focal length) that concentrate incident photons onto small solid-state detectors with CCD-level (85–175 eV) energy resolution, 100 ns time resolution, and low background rates. This technology has been fully developed for NICER and will be scaled up to take advantage of the longer focal length of STROBE-X. The higher-energy band (2–30 keV) is covered by large-area, collimated silicon drift detectors that were developed for the European LOFT mission concept. Each instrument will provide an order of magnitude improvement in effective area over its predecessor (NICER in the soft band and RXTE in the hard band). Finally, STROBE-X offers a sensitive wide-field monitor (WFM), both to act as a trigger for pointed observations of X-ray transients and also to provide high duty-cycle, high time-resolution, and high spectral-resolution monitoring of the variable X-ray sky. The WFM will boast approximately 20 times the sensitivity of the RXTE All-Sky Monitor, enabling multi-wavelength and multi-messenger investigations with a large instantaneous field of view. This mission concept will be presented to the 2020 Decadal Survey for consideration.
eXTP is a science mission designed to study the state of matter under extreme conditions of density, gravity and magnetism. Primary goals are the determination of the equation of state of matter at supra-nuclear density, the measurement of QED effects in highly magnetized star, and the study of accretion in the strong-field regime of gravity. Primary targets include isolated and binary neutron stars, strong magnetic field systems like magnetars, and stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. The mission carries a unique and unprecedented suite of state-of-the-art scientific instruments enabling for the first time ever the simultaneous spectral-timing-polarimetry studies of cosmic sources in the energy range from 0.5-30 keV (and beyond). Key elements of the payload are: the Spectroscopic Focusing Array (SFA) - a set of 11 X-ray optics for a total effective area of ∼0.9 m2 and 0.6 m2 at 2 keV and 6 keV respectively, equipped with Silicon Drift Detectors offering <180 eV spectral resolution; the Large Area Detector (LAD) - a deployable set of 640 Silicon Drift Detectors, for a total effective area of ∼3.4 m2, between 6 and 10 keV, and spectral resolution better than 250 eV; the Polarimetry Focusing Array (PFA) – a set of 2 X-ray telescope, for a total effective area of 250 cm2 at 2 keV, equipped with imaging gas pixel photoelectric polarimeters; the Wide Field Monitor (WFM) - a set of 3 coded mask wide field units, equipped with position-sensitive Silicon Drift Detectors, each covering a 90 degrees x 90 degrees field of view. The eXTP international consortium includes major institutions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Universities in China, as well as major institutions in several European countries and the United States. The predecessor of eXTP, the XTP mission concept, has been selected and funded as one of the so-called background missions in the Strategic Priority Space Science Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2011. The strong European participation has significantly enhanced the scientific capabilities of eXTP. The planned launch date of the mission is earlier than 2025.
XIPE, the X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer, is a mission dedicated to X-ray Astronomy. At the time of
writing XIPE is in a competitive phase A as fourth medium size mission of ESA (M4). It promises to reopen the
polarimetry window in high energy Astrophysics after more than 4 decades thanks to a detector that efficiently
exploits the photoelectric effect and to X-ray optics with large effective area. XIPE uniqueness is time-spectrally-spatially-
resolved X-ray polarimetry as a breakthrough in high energy astrophysics and fundamental physics.
Indeed the payload consists of three Gas Pixel Detectors at the focus of three X-ray optics with a total effective
area larger than one XMM mirror but with a low weight. The payload is compatible with the fairing of the Vega
launcher. XIPE is designed as an observatory for X-ray astronomers with 75 % of the time dedicated to a Guest
Observer competitive program and it is organized as a consortium across Europe with main contributions from
Italy, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden.
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, >8m2 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.
LOFT-P is a mission concept for a NASA Astrophysics Probe-Class (<$1B) X-ray timing mission, based on the LOFT M-class concept originally proposed to ESAs M3 and M4 calls. LOFT-P requires very large collecting area, high time resolution, good spectral resolution, broad-band spectral coverage (2-30 keV), highly flexible scheduling, and an ability to detect and respond promptly to time-critical targets of opportunity. It addresses science questions such as: What is the equation of state of ultra dense matter? What are the effects of strong gravity on matter spiraling into black holes? It would be optimized for sub-millisecond timing of bright Galactic X-ray sources including X-ray bursters, black hole binaries, and magnetars to study phenomena at the natural timescales of neutron star surfaces and black hole event horizons and to measure mass and spin of black holes. These measurements are synergistic to imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy instruments, addressing much smaller distance scales than are possible without very long baseline X-ray interferometry, and using complementary techniques to address the geometry and dynamics of emission regions. LOFT-P would have an effective area of >6 m2, > 10x that of the highly successful Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). A sky monitor (2-50 keV) acts as a trigger for pointed observations, providing high duty cycle, high time resolution monitoring of the X-ray sky with ~20 times the sensitivity of the RXTE All-Sky Monitor, enabling multi-wavelength and multimessenger studies. A probe-class mission concept would employ lightweight collimator technology and large-area solid-state detectors, segmented into pixels or strips, technologies which have been recently greatly advanced during the ESA M3 Phase A study of LOFT. Given the large community interested in LOFT (>800 supporters*, the scientific productivity of this mission is expected to be very high, similar to or greater than RXTE (~ 2000 refereed publications). We describe the results of a study, recently completed by the MSFC Advanced Concepts Office, that demonstrates that such a mission is feasible within a NASA probe-class mission budget.
The calibration system for XIPE is aimed at providing a way to check and correct possible variations of performance of the Gas Pixel Detector during the three years of operation in orbit (plus two years of possible extended operation), while facilitating the observation of the celestial sources. This will be performed by using a filter wheel with a large heritage having a set of positions for the calibration and the observation systems. In particular, it will allow for correcting possible gain variation, for measuring the modulation factor using a polarized source, for removing non interesting bright sources in the field of view and for observing very bright celestial sources. The on-board calibration system is composed of three filter wheels, one for each detector and it is expected to operate for a small number of times during the year. Moreover, since it operates once at a time, within the observation mode, it allows for simultaneous calibration and acquisition from celestial sources on different detectors. In this paper we present the scope and the requirements of the on-board calibration system, its design, and a description of its possible use in space.
LOFT (Large Observatory For x-ray Timing) is one of the ESA M3 missions selected within the Cosmic Vision program in 2011 to carry out an assessment phase study and compete for a launch opportunity in 2022-2024. The phase-A studies of all M3 missions were completed at the end of 2013. LOFT is designed to carry on-board two instruments with sensitivity in the 2-50 keV range: a 10 m2 class Large Area Detector (LAD) with a <1° collimated FoV and a wide field monitor (WFM) making use of coded masks and providing an instantaneous coverage of more than 1/3 of the sky. The prime goal of the WFM will be to detect transient sources to be observed by the LAD. However, thanks to its unique combination of a wide field of view (FoV) and energy resolution (better than 500 eV), the WFM will be also an excellent monitoring instrument to study the long term variability of many classes of X-ray sources. The WFM consists of 10 independent and identical coded mask cameras arranged in 5 pairs to provide the desired sky coverage. We provide here an overview of the instrument design, configuration, and capabilities of the LOFT WFM. The compact and modular design of the WFM could easily make the instrument concept adaptable for other missions.
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 m2 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 Large Observatory For X-ray Timing (LOFT) is one of the 5 missions considered by ESA as an M3 candidate. The LOFT scientific payload consists of a collimated Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM).
The scale of the LAD (10 m² effective area) puts it in a new design space for X-ray astronomy, with resulting implications for design trade-offs, modularity, manufacturing, assembly, test and calibration processes. This paper focuses on the LAD module, which is the building block of the instrument. We present the overall module design, discussing these challenges and how they have been addressed.
LOFT, the Large Observatory For X-ray Timing, was one of the ESA M3 mission candidates that completed their
assessment phase at the end of 2013. LOFT is equipped with two instruments, the Large Area Detector (LAD) and the Wide Field Monitor (WFM). The LAD performs pointed observations of several targets per orbit (~90 minutes),
providing roughly ~80 GB of proprietary data per day (the proprietary period will be 12 months). The WFM
continuously monitors about 1/3 of the sky at a time and provides data for about ~100 sources a day, resulting in a total of ~20 GB of additional telemetry. The LOFT Burst alert System additionally identifies on-board bright impulsive events (e.g., Gamma-ray Bursts, GRBs) and broadcasts the corresponding position and trigger time to the ground using a dedicated system of ~15 VHF receivers. All WFM data are planned to be made public immediately. In this contribution we summarize the planned organization of the LOFT ground segment (GS), as established in the mission Yellow Book1. We describe the expected GS contributions from ESA and the LOFT consortium. A review is provided of the planned LOFT data products and the details of the data flow, archiving and distribution. Despite LOFT was not selected for launch within the M3 call, its long assessment phase ( >2 years) led to a very solid mission design and an efficient planning of its ground operations.
LOFT (Large Observatory for X-ray Timing) is one of the five candidates that were considered by ESA as an M3 mission (with launch in 2022-2024) and has been studied during an extensive assessment phase. It is specifically designed to perform fast X-ray timing and probe the status of the matter near black holes and neutron stars. Its pointed instrument is the Large Area Detector (LAD), a 10 m2-class instrument operating in the 2-30keV range, which holds the capability to revolutionise studies of variability from X-ray sources on the millisecond time scales.
The LAD instrument has now completed the assessment phase but was not down-selected for launch. However, during the assessment, most of the trade-offs have been closed leading to a robust and well documented design that will be reproposed in future ESA calls. In this talk, we will summarize the characteristics of the LAD design and give an overview of the expectations for the instrument capabilities.
The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) was one of the M3 missions selected for the phase A study in the ESA's Cosmic Vision program. LOFT is designed to perform high-time-resolution X-ray observations of black holes and neutron stars. The main instrument on the LOFT payload is the Large Area Detector (LAD), a collimated experiment with a nominal effective area of ~10 m2 @ 8 keV, and a spectral resolution of ~240 eV in the energy band 2-30 keV. These performances are achieved covering a large collecting area with more than 2000 large-area Silicon Drift Detectors (SDDs) each one coupled to a collimator based on lead-glass micro-channel plates. In order to reduce the thermal load onto the detectors, which are open to Sky, and to protect them from out of band radiation, optical-thermal filter will be mounted in front of the SDDs. Different options have been considered for the LAD filters for best compromise between high quantum efficiency and high mechanical robustness. We present the baseline design of the optical-thermal filters, show the nominal performances, and present preliminary test results performed during the 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 m2 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.
We report on our activities, currently in progress, aimed at performing accelerator experiments with soft protons and
hyper-velocity dust particles. They include tests of different types of X-ray detectors and related components (such as
filters) and measurements of scattering of soft protons and hyper-velocity dust particles off X-ray mirror shells. These
activities have been identified as a goal in the context of a number of ongoing space projects in order to assess the risk
posed by environmental radiation and dust and qualify the adopted instrumentation with respect to possible damage or
performance degradation. In this paper we focus on tests for the Silicon Drift Detectors (SDDs) used aboard the LOFT
space mission. We use the Van de Graaff accelerators at the University of Tübingen and at the Max Planck Institute for
Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg, for soft proton and hyper-velocity dust tests respectively. We present the
experimental set-up adopted to perform the tests, status of the activities and some very preliminary results achieved at
The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) is one of the four candidate ESA M3 missions considered for
launch in the timeframe of 2022. It is specifically designed to perform fast X-ray timing and probe the status of
the matter near black holes and neutron stars. The LOFT scientific payload consists of a Large Area Detector
and a Wide Field Monitor.
The LAD is a 10m2-class pointed instrument with high spectral (200 eV @ 6 keV) and timing (< 10 μs)
resolution over the 2-80 keV range. It is designed to observe persistent and transient X-ray sources with a very
large dynamic range from a few mCrab up to an intensity of 15 Crab.
An unprecedented large throughput (~280.000 cts/s from the Crab) is achieved with a segmented detector,
making pile-up and dead-time, often worrying or limiting focused experiments, secondary issues.
We present the on-board data handling concept that follows the highly segmented and hierarchical structure
of the instrument from the front-end electronics to the on-board software. The system features customizable
observation modes ranging from event-by-event data for sources below 0.5 Crab to individually adjustable time
resolved spectra for the brighter sources. On-board lossless data compression will be applied before transmitting
the data to ground.
The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) is one of the four candidate ESA M3 missions considered for launch in
the 2022 timeframe. It is specifically designed to perform fast X-ray timing and probe the status of the matter near black
holes and neutron stars. The LOFT scientific payload is composed of a Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field
Monitor (WFM). The LAD is a 10 m2-class pointed instrument with 20 times the collecting area of the best past timing
missions (such as RXTE) over the 2-30 keV range, which holds the capability to revolutionize studies of X-ray
variability down to the millisecond time scales. Its ground-breaking characteristic is a low mass per unit surface,
enabling an effective area of ~10 m2 (@10 keV) at a reasonable weight. The development of such large but light
experiment, with low mass and power per unit area, is now made possible by the recent advancements in the field of
large-area silicon detectors - able to time tag an X-ray photon with an accuracy <10 μs and an energy resolution of ~260
eV at 6 keV - and capillary-plate X-ray collimators. In this paper, we will summarize the characteristics of the LAD
instrument and give an overview of its capabilities.
The Scientific objectives of the LOFT mission, e.g., the study of the Neutron Star equation of state and of the
Strong Gravity, require accurate energy, time and flux calibration for the 516k channels of the SDD detectors, as
well as the knowledge of the detector dead time and of the detector response with respect to the incident angle
of the photons. We report here the evaluations made to assess the calibration issues for the LAD instrument.
The strategies for both ground and on-board calibrations, including astrophysical observations, show that the
goals are achievable within the current technologies.