This paper introduces a second-generation balloon-borne hard X-ray polarimetry mission, XL-Calibur. X-ray polarimetry promises to give qualitatively new information about high-energy astrophysical sources, such as pulsars and binary black hole systems. The XL-Calibur contains a grazing incidence X-ray telescope with a focal plane detector unit that is sensitive to linear polarization. The telescope is very similar in design to the ASTRO-H HXT telescopes that has the world’s largest effective area above ~10 keV. The detector unit combines a low atomic number Compton scatterer with a CdZnTe detector assembly to measure the polarization making use of the fact that polarized photons Compton scatter preferentially perpendicular to the electric field orientation. It also contains a CdZnTe imager at the bottom. The detector assembly is surrounded by the improved anti-coincidence shielding, giving a better sensitivity. The pointing system with arcsecond accuracy will be achieved.
XL-Calibur is a balloon-borne hard X-ray polarimetry mission, the first flight of which is currently foreseen for 2021. XL-Calibur carries an X-ray telescope consists of consists of 213 Wolter I grazing-incidence mirrors which are nested in a coaxial and cofocal configuration. The optics design is nearly identical to the Hard X-ray Telescope (HXT) on board the ASTRO-H satellite. The telescope was originally fabricated for the Formation Flying Astronomical Survey Telescope (FFAST) project. However, the telescope can be used for XL-Calibur, since the FFAST project was terminated before completion. The mirror surfaces are coated with Pt/C depth-graded multilayers to reflect hard X-rays above 10 keV by Bragg reflection. The effective area of the telescope is larger than 300 cm^2 at 30 keV. The mirrors are supported by alignment bars in the housing, and each of the bars has a series of 213 grooves to hold the mirrors. To obtain the best focus of the optics, the positions of the mirrors have to be adjusted by tuning the positions of the alignment bars. The tuning of the mirror positions is conducted using the X-ray beam at the synchrotron facility SPring-8 BL20B2, and this process is called optical tuning. First the positions of the second reflectors are tuned, and then those of the first reflectors are tuned. We did the first optical tuning in Jan 2020. The second tuning will be planned between April to July, 2020. This paper reports the current status of the hard X-ray telescope for XL-Calibur.
The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) is the successor to the 2016 Hitomi mission that ended prematurely. Like Hitomi, the primary science goals are to examine astrophysical problems with precise highresolution X-ray spectroscopy. XRISM promises to discover new horizons in X-ray astronomy. XRISM carries a 6 x 6 pixelized X-ray micro-calorimeter on the focal plane of an X-ray mirror assembly and a co-aligned X-ray CCD camera that covers the same energy band over a large field of view. XRISM utilizes Hitomi heritage, but all designs were reviewed. The attitude and orbit control system were improved in hardware and software. The number of star sensors were increased from two to three to improve coverage and robustness in onboard attitude determination and to obtain a wider field of view sun sensor. The fault detection, isolation, and reconfiguration (FDIR) system was carefully examined and reconfigured. Together with a planned increase of ground support stations, the survivability of the spacecraft is significantly improved.
The XRISM is the astronomical mission to perform the high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy of astrophysical objects using the micro-calorimeter array. In order to enhance the scientific outputs of the mission, the science operations team (SOT) is structured with responsibilities of the spacecraft planning, data processing and distributions, development and maintenance of analyses software and calibration database, and users’ supports. The operation concepts are established based on lessons learned from past X-ray missions. The SOT consists of the Science Operations Center at JAXA and the Science Data Center at NASA. Details of science operations plan and preparation status on SOC are summarized.
All-sky surveys are crucial to discover transient objects. In reality, however, it is impossible to achieve high sensitivity, high cadence, wide sky coverage, and broad wavelength range at the same time. This is where observations with small telescopes can come in significant, as small telescopes often can make high cadence monitoring and flexible operations, playing a complementary role to large observatories. We plan to launch a new 6U-size CubeSat X-ray observatory, NinjaSat, in 2022 to conduct a flexible X-ray observation program. The satellite is equipped with two identical non-imaging Gas Multiplier Counters (GMCs) sensitive to X-rays in the 2–50 keV band with a total effective area of 36 cm2 at 6 keV. Coupled with X-ray collimators of a 2.1° field-of-view, NinjaSat is suitable for flexible multi-wavelength coordinated observations of bright (⪆10 mCrab) X-ray sources with particular emphasis on their time variability. An example of our targets is one of the brightest celestial X-ray objects, Scorpius X-1, which hosts a fast-spinning neutron star and is a candidate source for coherent gravitational waves. The quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) of neutron-star systems is considered to carry important information on the neutron star’s rotational frequency, which is useful for sensitive gravitational-wave searches. Scorpius X-1, being one of the brightest, provides the best opportunity to study the QPO. Combining with coordinated simultaneous monitoring observations with recently-developed fast optical photometry, the mechanism of the mass accretion of the disk can also be studied. We plan to use NinjaSat also for space science education, particularly X-ray astronomy, for students and the general public.
The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, XRISM, is scheduled to launch in 2022, with the goal of building on the brief successes of the ASTRO-H (Hitomi) mission, and recovering the prime science objective to solve outstanding astrophysical questions using high resolution X-ray spectroscopy. The XRISM Science Operations Team (SOT), consists of the JAXA-led Science Operations Center (SOC) and NASA-led Science Data Center (SDC) that work together to optimize the scientific output from the Resolve high-resolution spectrometer and the Xtend wide-field imager through planning and scheduling observations, processing and distribution of data, development and distribution of software tools and the calibration database (CaldB), user support, and support of ground and in-flight calibration. Here, we summarize the roles and responsibilities of the SDC, and the current status and future plans, covering scheduling software, software and CalDB production and release, data transmission and processing pipeline, and simulation and other post-pipeline analysis tools. Resolve poses particular challenges due to its unprecedented combination of high spectral resolution and throughput, broad spectral coverage, and relatively small field-of-view and large pixel-size; and, we highlight those challenges.
We present the first application of a time projection chamber polarimeter to measure high energy X-ray polarization above 10 keV. The polarimeter is designed based on the PRAXyS soft X-ray polarimeter. The sealed gas is changed to a gas mixture of 60% argon and 40% dimethyl ether at 1 atm to be sensitive to high energy X-rays. The polarimeter performance is verified with linearly polarized, monochromatic X-rays at a synchrotron radiation facility, KEK Photon Factory BL-14A. The measured modulation factors are 42.4 ± 0.6%, 50.4 ± 0.6%, and 55.0 ± 0.6% at 12, 14, and 16 keV, respectively, and the measured polarization angles are consistent with the expected values at all energies.
The ASTRO-H mission was designed and developed through an international collaboration of JAXA, NASA, ESA, and the CSA. It was successfully launched on February 17, 2016, and then named Hitomi. During the in-orbit verification phase, the on-board observational instruments functioned as expected. The intricate coolant and refrigeration systems for soft X-ray spectrometer (SXS, a quantum micro-calorimeter) and soft X-ray imager (SXI, an X-ray CCD) also functioned as expected. However, on March 26, 2016, operations were prematurely terminated by a series of abnormal events and mishaps triggered by the attitude control system. These errors led to a fatal event: the loss of the solar panels on the Hitomi mission. The X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (or, XARM) is proposed to regain the key scientific advances anticipated by the international collaboration behind Hitomi. XARM will recover this science in the shortest time possible by focusing on one of the main science goals of Hitomi,“Resolving astrophysical problems by precise high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy”.1 This decision was reached after evaluating the performance of the instruments aboard Hitomi and the mission’s initial scientific results, and considering the landscape of planned international X-ray astrophysics missions in 2020’s and 2030’s. Hitomi opened the door to high-resolution spectroscopy in the X-ray universe. It revealed a number of discrepancies between new observational results and prior theoretical predictions. Yet, the resolution pioneered by Hitomi is also the key to answering these and other fundamental questions. The high spectral resolution realized by XARM will not offer mere refinements; rather, it will enable qualitative leaps in astrophysics and plasma physics. XARM has therefore been given a broad scientific charge: “Revealing material circulation and energy transfer in cosmic plasmas and elucidating evolution of cosmic structures and objects”. To fulfill this charge, four categories of science objectives that were defined for Hitomi will also be pursued by XARM; these include (1) Structure formation of the Universe and evolution of clusters of galaxies; (2) Circulation history of baryonic matters in the Universe; (3) Transport and circulation of energy in the Universe; (4) New science with unprecedented high resolution X-ray spectroscopy. In order to achieve these scientific objectives, XARM will carry a 6 × 6 pixelized X-ray micro-calorimeter on the focal plane of an X-ray mirror assembly, and an aligned X-ray CCD camera covering the same energy band and a wider field of view. This paper introduces the science objectives, mission concept, and observing plan of XARM.