The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) will expand the information space for study of cosmic sources, by adding polarization to the properties (time, energy, and position) observed in x-ray astronomy. Selected in 2017 January as a NASA Astrophysics Small Explorer (SMEX) mission, IXPE will be launched into an equatorial orbit in 2021. The IXPE observatory includes three identical x-ray telescopes, each comprising a 4-m-focal-length (grazing-incidence) mirror module assembly (MMA) and a polarization-sensitive (imaging) detector unit (DU). The optical bench separating the MMAs from the DUs is a deployable boom with a tip/tilt/rotation stage for DU-to-MMA (gang) alignment, similar to the configuration used for the NuSTAR observatory.
The IXPE mission will provide scientifically meaningful measurements of the x-ray polarization of a few dozen sources in the 2–8 keV band, over the first two years of the mission. For several bright, extended x-ray sources (pulsar wind nebulae, supernova remnants, and an active-galaxy jet), IXPE observations will produce polarization maps indicating the magnetic structure of the synchrotron emitting regions. For many bright pulsating x-ray sources (isolated pulsars, accreting x-ray pulsars, and magnetars), IXPE observations will produce phase-resolved profiles of the polarization degree and position angle.
PROBA3 is the first high precision formation flying (FF) mission under responsibility of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is a technology mission devoted to in-orbit demonstration of the FF techniques, with two satellites kept at an average inter-satellite distance of 144m. The guiding scientific rationale is to realize a diluted coronagraph with the telescope (ASPIICS) on one satellite and the external occulter on the other satellite to observe the inner Solar corona at high spatial and temporal resolution, down to 1.08R⊙. The two spacecraft will be orbiting in a high eccentricity geocentric trajectory with perigee at 600km and the apogee at 60000Km and with an orbital period of 19hrs. The FF acquisition and operations will last about 6 hrs around the apogee and different metrology systems will be used for realizing and controlling the FF. The alignment active most critical sub-system is the Shadow Positioning Sensors (SPS), a series of Si-PM (Silicon Photomultiplier) disposed around the ASPIICS telescope's entrance aperture and measuring the proper positioning of the penumbra generated by the occulter at the center of the coronagraph’s optical reference frame. The FF alignment measurement accuracies required to the SPS are: 500μm for lateral movements and 50mm for longitudinal movements. This paper gives an overview of the opto-mechanical and electronic design and of the software algorithm for the FF intersatellite positioning. The expected performance of the SPS metrology system are reported.
The definition and preliminary design of a thermal imager for earth observation applications has been performed, justified by a thorough analysis of user requirements. A survey of international programmes and other sources have been used to derive the radiometric requirements at ground level. Then instrument requirements at top of atmosphere have been obtained by means of the usual split-window techniques for land and sea. Preliminary instrument radiometric performances have been estimated on the basis of a review of possible instrument concepts (detectors and scan modes). A trade-off analysis between instrument requirements and performances led to the identification of two classes of instruments - the first based on high performance, cooled infrared detectors, and the second relying on microbolometer technology, with lower performance but not constrained by the need for a cryocooler. The applications feasible by means of each of them have been identified. The chosen instrument baseline was that using uncooled microbolometers, for which the best spatial and radiometric resolution achievable has been assessed, in order to cover as many applications as possible in view of the analysis of requirements. The selected baseline has been further detailed, up to a complete outline of the instrument, in order to confirm the achievable performance and assure its feasibility.