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  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on September 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA Engineering and Technology, Magnetar   

    From ESA: “Magnetar discovered close to supernova remnant Kesteven 79″ 

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    European Space Agency

    01/09/2014
    Massive stars end their life with a bang, exploding as supernovas and releasing massive amounts of energy and matter. What remains of the star is a small and extremely dense remnant: a neutron star or a black hole.

    bh
    ESA/XMM-Newton/ Ping Zhou, Nanjing University, China

    Neutron stars come in several flavours, depending on properties such as their ages, the strength of the magnetic field concealed beneath their surface, or the presence of other stars nearby. Some of the energetic processes taking place around neutron stars can be explored with X-ray telescopes, like ESA’s XMM-Newton.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    This image depicts two very different neutron stars that were observed in the same patch of the sky with XMM-Newton. The green and pink bubble dominating the image is Kesteven 79, the remnant of a supernova explosion located about 23,000 light-years away from us.

    From the properties of the hot gas in Kesteven 79 and from its size, astronomers estimate that it is between 5000 and 7000 years old. Taking account of the time needed for light to travel to Earth, this means that the supernova that created it must have exploded almost 30,000 years ago. The explosion left behind a a young neutron star with a weak magnetic field, which can be seen as the blue spot at the centre of Kesteven 79.

    Beneath it, a blue splotch indicates an entirely different beast: a neutron star boasting an extremely strong magnetic field, known as a magnetar. Astronomers discovered this magnetar, named 3XMM J185246.6+003317, in 2013 by looking at images that had been taken in 2008 and 2009. After the discovery, they looked at previous images of the same patch of the sky, taken before 2008, but did not find any trace of the magnetar. This suggests that the detection corresponded to an outburst of X-rays released by the magnetar, likely caused by a dramatic change in the structure of its magnetic field.

    While the neutron star in the supernova remnant is relatively young, the magnetar is likely a million years old; the age difference means that it is very unlikely that the magnetar arose from the explosion that created Kesteven 79, but must have formed much earlier.

    This false-colour image is a composite of 15 observations performed between 2004 and 2009 with the EPIC MOS camera on board XMM-Newton. The image combines data collected at energies from 0.3 to 1.2 keV (shown in red), 1.2 to 2 keV (shown in green) and 2 to 7 keV (shown in blue).

    epic mos

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on May 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA Engineering and Technology   

    From ESA: “ESA’s new X-ray optics for observing the hot Universe” 

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    European Space Agency

    16-05-2014
    No Writer Credit

    A new idea to use super-polished silicon wafers as the heart of a telescope is set to reveal more of the hot, high-energy Universe, peering back into its turbulent history.

    Invisible X-rays tell us about the very hot matter in the Universe – black holes, supernovas and superheated gas clouds. Today’s X-ray observatories, ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra, were launched in the last century, and are still delivering world-class science. But they are starting to age.

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

    To replace them, ESA is planning a much more capable X-ray observatory for launch in 2028, which would probe 10 to 100 times deeper into the Universe than the current generation of X-ray telescopes.

    “This demands a whole new type of X-ray mirror,” explains Marcos Bavdaz, leading the technology push for ESA’s future science missions. “To reach the kind of size needed, this new mission’s mirrors will have to be 10 times lighter than XMM’s, while delivering even sharper images.”

    mirrors
    XMM-Newton mirror module
    Stacked telescope mirrors of ESA’s current XMM-Newton

    The problem is that energetic X-rays do not behave like typical light waves – try to reflect them with a standard mirror and they are absorbed inside. Instead, X-rays can only be reflected at shallow angles, like stones skimming along water.

    That means multiple mirrors must be stacked together to build a large-enough telescope. XMM has 174 gold-plated nickel mirrors, nested inside one another like Russian dolls.

    But to reach the performance required for ESA’s next X-ray mission, tens of thousands of densely packed mirror plates will be needed. How can this be done?

    A new approach is required. Silicon pore optics, developed by ESA, draws on high-tech equipment and materials from the semiconductor industry.

    stack
    Silicon pore optics mirror stack

    “We make use of industrial silicon wafers, normally used to manufacture microprocessors,” adds Eric Wille, optical system engineer for the X-ray optics development.

    “We take advantage of their stiffness and super-polished surface, stacking a few dozen at a time together to form a single ‘mirror module’.”

    Many hundreds of these modules will be fitted together to form the optics of the X-ray mission.

    Grooves are cut into the wafers, leaving stiffening ribs and paper-thin mirrors, which are then covered with reflective metal. For maximum accuracy, semiconductor manufacturing techniques are applied for the stacking process.

    vib
    Vibration testing

    “Stacking is done by a specially designed robot, aiming for micron-scale precision,” Eric describes. “We’ve seen big jumps in quality as the robotics improve.”

    “All the stacking takes place in a cleanroom, since tiny dust particles risk large deformations in the mirror stack.

    “The semiconductor industry is improving the quality of silicon wafers, which will further improve the mirror quality in future.”

    stacks
    Mirror stacks in cleanroom

    The company cosine Research, leading the silicon pore optics consortium, has succeeded in the routine production of complete mirror modules.

    Hundreds of mirror plates are regularly made by Micronit Microfluidics, a company specialised in micromachining large quantities of glass and silicon products.

    Another consortium member, Kayser-Threde, has vibration-tested a mirror module and its mounting system, showing the design is capable of enduring a launch to space.

    stars
    Hot stars seen in X-rays

    ESA’s mission to the hot, high-energy universe

    In November 2013 the science theme ‘the hot and energetic Universe’ was selected for the second Large-class mission, or L2, in ESA’s Cosmic Vision science programme – to be pursued with an advanced X-ray observatory.

    With a launch date foreseen for 2028, the mission will address two key questions. How and why does ordinary matter assemble into the galaxies and galactic clusters that we see today, and how do black holes – lurking at the centre of almost all galaxies – grow and influence their surroundings?

    Still many years from launch, the underlying optical technology required is being prepared as a joint effort between ESA’s Technology Research Programme – turning innovative ideas into working prototypes – and its Science Core Technology Programme – developing enabling technologies for future science missions.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on February 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ESA Engineering and Technology,   

    From ESA: “How to cook a spacecraft” 

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    European Space Agency

    27 February 2013

    The faint aroma of hot metal filled the surrounding cleanroom as the hatch to ESA’s newest test facility was slid aside, concluding a 23-day ‘bake-out’ of the largest segment of ESA’s mission to Mercury.

    bake
    Mercury Planetary Orbiter being placed in Phenix thermal vacuum facility

    Ending on the early hours of 14 February, this test ensured ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter – MPO, part of the multi-module BepiColombo mission – was cleaned of potential contaminants in advance of its 2015 mission to the inner Solar System.

    The bake-out took place at ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, which includes a dedicated Test Centre equipped to simulate all aspects of the space environment.

    MPO will fly to the innermost planet with Japan’s Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter, riding together on ESA’s propulsion module. But not before getting cooked first.

    ‘Being close to Mercury and experiencing high temperatures, the release of molecules from spacecraft materials is expected to occur at higher quantities than for normal satellites,’ explains Jan van Casteren, BepiColombo Project Manager.

    ‘Such molecules are a contamination threat if they condense on sensitive surfaces, so we need to minimise outgassing in order to protect our delicate scientific instrumentation on the spacecraft.’

    So an initial bake-out of the various spacecraft segments is essential for cleaning purposes – in this case MPO’s ‘Proto-Flight Model’, incorporating its propulsion system and heat pipes that regulate its temperature.

    A new test facility called Phenix hosted the bake-out, a 4.5 m-diameter stainless steel vacuum chamber 11.8 m long, with an inner box called the ‘thermal tent’ whose six copper walls can be heated up to 100°C or cooled via piped liquid nitrogen down to –190°C, all independent from each other.

    ‘This test was different from more typical thermal vacuum testing because, while the sides and top of the chamber were kept heated to around 50°C, the underside remained cooled by liquid nitrogen throughout,” explains Mark Wagner, Head of ESTEC’s Test Facilities & Test Methods Section.”

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA Technology


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  • richardmitnick 10:14 am on February 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA Engineering and Technology,   

    From ESA Technology: “Silicon brains to oversee satellites” 

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    European Space Agency

    XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    herschelHerschel


    Planck

    13 February 2013
    No Writer Credit

    A beautiful and expensive sight: upwards of €6 million-worth of silicon wafers, crammed with the complex integrated circuits that sit at the heart of each and every ESA mission. Years of meticulous design work went into these tiny brains, empowering satellites with intelligence.

    chgips
    Silicon wafers etched with integrated circuits for space missions. No image credit.

    The image shows a collection of six silicon wafers that contain some 14 different chip designs developed by several European companies during the last eight years with ESA’s financial and technical support.

    Each of these 20 cm-diameter wafers contains between 30 and 80 replicas of each chip, each one carrying up to about 10 million transistors or basic circuit switches.

    To save money on the high cost of fabrication, various chips designed by different companies and destined for multiple ESA projects are crammed onto the same silicon wafers, etched into place at specialised semiconductor manufacturing plants or ‘fabs’, in this case LFoundry (formerly Atmel) in France.

    Once manufactured, the chips, still on the wafer, are tested. The wafers are then chopped up. They become ready for use when placed inside protective packages – just like standard terrestrial microprocessors – and undergo final quality tests.

    Through little metal pins or balls sticking out of their packages these miniature brains are then connected to other circuit elements – such as sensors, actuators, memory or power systems – used across the satellite.

    To save the time and money needed to develop complex chips like these, ESA’s Microelectronics section maintains a catalogue of chip designs, known as Intellectual Property (IP) cores, available to European industry through ESA licence.”

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA Technology


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  • richardmitnick 12:44 pm on February 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA Engineering and Technology,   

    From ESA: “Looking out for lasers” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    herschelHerschel


    Planck

    6 February 2013

    ESA’s laboratories are equipped with a huge range of measuring tools, but the most versatile remains the human eye – and it must be looked after. These protective goggles are worn while using lasers to align plasma-measuring probes, in preparation for test firings of space thrusters in ESA’s Propulsion Laboratory.

    goggles

    Based at ESA’s technical centre ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the Propulsion Laboratory specialises in the testing of ion engines and other thrusters that operate outside Earth’s atmosphere.

    These are test-fired in specialised vacuum chambers, with diagnostic devices – Faraday and Langmuir probes as well as retarding potential analysers – placed at precise points within the thruster’s plumes to gather data on its performance.

    Engineer Giuditta Montesanti is pictured while preparing for a test: the thruster firings themselves take place out of sight, requiring no special protection. The Lab performs testing both for general research and development and in support of European space projects.

    This spring will see testing of the MiniRIT micro-propulsion thruster for next year’s LISA Pathfinder mission. This mission, testing technologies for gravitational wave detection, will be the most precisely controlled spacecraft ever flown, requiring thrusters that are sensitive enough to push back against the force of incoming sunshine.”

    lisa
    LISA Pathfinder will pave the way for a major ESA/NASA mission planned for the near future: LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), aimed at detecting gravitational waves generated by very massive objects such as black holes. Detecting gravitational waves will tell us more about the way space and time are interconnected.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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