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Proceedings ArticleDOI

X-ray optics at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

13 Apr 2015-Proceedings of SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics)-Vol. 9510, pp 951003

AbstractNASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) engages in research, development, design, fabrication, coating, assembly, and testing of grazing-incidence optics (primarily) for x-ray telescope systems. Over the past two decades, MSFC has refined processes for electroformed-nickel replication of grazing-incidence optics, in order to produce high-strength, thin-walled, full-cylinder x-ray mirrors. In recent years, MSFC has used this technology to fabricate numerous x-ray mirror assemblies for several flight (balloon, rocket, and satellite) programs. Additionally, MSFC has demonstrated the suitability of this technology for ground-based laboratory applications-namely, x-ray microscopes and cold-neutron microscopes and concentrators. This mature technology enables the production, at moderately low cost, of reasonably lightweight x-ray telescopes with good (15-30 arcsecond) angular resolution. However, achieving arcsecond imaging for a lightweight x-ray telescope likely requires development of other technologies. Accordingly, MSFC is conducting a multi-faceted research program toward enabling cost-effective production of lightweight high-resolution x-ray mirror assemblies. Relevant research topics currently under investigation include differential deposition for post-fabrication figure correction, in-situ monitoring and control of coating stress, and direct fabrication of thin-walled full-cylinder grazing-incidence mirrors.

Topics: Telescope (51%)

Summary (4 min read)

Introduction

  • Assembly, and testing of grazing-incidence optics for x-ray telescope systems.
  • Launched in 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory 1,2 continues as NASA’s flagship mission for x-ray astronomy.
  • Currently, MSFC uses this technology to produce (§3) x-ray telescopes for sub-orbital (balloon and rocket) and in-space missions (§3.1), as well as grazing-incidence optics for (ground-based) laboratory applications (§3.2).
  • A disadvantage of replication is that the figure of the replica—especially if the mirror is very thin—does not perfectly match the shape of the precisely figured mandrel.
  • The production of replicated x-ray mirrors comprises two top-level procedures—mandrel fabrication (§2.1) and shell fabrication (§2.2).

2.1. Mandrel fabrication

  • Figure 2 outlines the basic steps in fabricating a precision mandrel for electroformed-nickel replication (ENR) of a fullshell grazing-incidence mirror.
  • The mandrel typically incorporates primary (P) and secondary (S) conic frusta monolithically so that the P and S surfaces of a full-shell replica are consequentially coaxial.
  • This feature and the mirror being a full shell greatly simplify alignment of mirror shells into a mirror assembly.
  • While MSFC usually employs single-point diamond turning of the electroless nickel to figure the mandrel’s P and S surfaces to the required optical prescriptions, other figuring processes—e.g., precision grinding—are possible and occasionally used.
  • Final figuring, smoothing, and superpolishing of the mandrel’s electroless-nickel surface utilize conventional lapping and polishing methods using a custom precision lathe.

2.2. Shell fabrication

  • Figure 3 outlines the basic steps in electroforming a nickel replica full-shell grazing-incidence mirror off a precision electroless-nickel-plated aluminum mandrel (§2.1).
  • Over the past two decades, MSFC has developed several process refinements that now enable the successful fabrication of very thin (≈ 100-m) ENR mirror shells, although applications typically utilize thicker shells to reduce mount-induced distortions during alignment and assembly.
  • One area of ENR process improvement is surface passivation—control of adhesion of the shell onto the mandrel.
  • 22 Such a film is hard, negligibly increases the surface roughness, and enables deposition onto a mandrel of optical coatings (including multilayers) that adhere to and release with the shell.
  • In extreme instances, the deposition stress may be so tensile that the shell will not release upon cooling.

3.1. X-ray telescopes

  • MSFC has produced numerous flight x-ray mirror modules for several balloon, rocket, and satellite missions.
  • In most cases, the telescope system comprises multiple ENR mirror assemblies and corresponding detectors, to benefit from the substantial cost savings in optics fabrication afforded by replication.
  • Furthermore, for a given mass allocation, multiple mirror assemblies allow relatively stiffer mirrors than does a single mirror assembly with the same collecting area.

3.1.1. High-Energy Replicated Optics to Explore the Sun (HEROES)

  • HEROES is a joint balloon mission of MSFC and Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), designed to perform hard-xray (25–75 keV) imaging of the sun (during the day) and of cosmic sources (during the night).
  • Flown in 2013 September, the HEROES payload includes 8 mirror assemblies with 6-m focal length.
  • Each mirror assembly contains 14 coaxially nested iridium-coated ENR shells of 610-mm total (P+S) length and ranging in diameter from 50 mm to 94 mm.
  • 24 The HEROES payload is an enhanced version of MSFC’s High-Energy Replicated Optics (HERO) payload, modified by GSFC to allow hard-x-ray observations of the sun.
  • 25,26 † Release of the shell from the mandrel upon cooling relies upon the shell material (nickel or a nickel alloy) having a substantially lower coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) than the predominant mandrel material .

3.1.2. Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI)

  • FOXSI is a sub-orbital rocket mission led by the University of California at Berkeley, using x-ray optics from MSFC and detectors from JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.
  • 27 Designed to perform high-dynamic-range medium-energy x-ray (5–15 keV) imaging of the sun for the study of x-ray microflares, FOXSI has thus far had two successful flights—FOXSI-1 in 2012 November 28 and FOXSI-2 in 2014 December.
  • The FOXSI telescope includes 7 mirror assemblies with 2-m focal length.
  • The mirror assemblies exhibit an imaging performance with HEW ≈ 25 arcsec and FWHM ≈ 5 arcsec, the later metric being more important for this application.

3.1.3. Micro-X

  • Micro-X is a sub-orbital rocket mission led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), designed to obtain soft-x-ray (0.2–3 keV) non-dispersive high-spectral-resolution imaging of supernova remnants.
  • 29 Built in collaboration with Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the detector is a micro-calorimeter pixilated array.
  • While the initial Micro-X flight(s) will employ aluminum-foil segmented x-ray mirrors from GSFC, 30 MIT plans to utilize ENR full-shell x-ray optics from MSFC on a later flight (2017 or later).
  • The ENR telescope comprises a single mirror assembly with 2.5-m focal length.
  • The Micro-X ENR mirror assembly will contain 5 coaxially nested rhodium-coated ENR shells of 600-mm P+S length and ranging in diameter from 383 mm to 444 mm, with a required angular resolution HEW < 30 arcsec.

3.1.4. Astronomical Röntgen Telescope (ART) on Spectrum-Röntgen-Gamma (SRG)

  • SRG will conduct an x-ray all-sky survey during its first 4 years, using two complementary arrays of x-ray telescopes.
  • The primary telescope array is the Extended RÖntgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array , 32 led by the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik (MPE).
  • EROSITA is a soft-x-ray (0.3–10 keV) imaging system comprising 7 mirror assemblies with 1.6-m focal length, each with a pn-CCD detector.
  • 33 Each eROSITA mirror assembly comprises 54 coaxially nested gold-coated ENR full-shell mirrors, produced by Media Lario .
  • MSFC has completed the ground calibration of the flight mirror assemblies 38 and delivered them to IKI.

3.2. Ground-based applications

  • The technology and supporting infrastructure are relevant to several ground-based applications.
  • Space applications are usually more demanding than laboratory applications, for which mass constraints and collecting-area requirements are not an issue.
  • Thus, grazing-incidence optics for laboratory applications are comparatively smaller with thicker walls, making them less susceptible to induced distortions.
  • MSFC is exploring collaborations to utilize ENR grazing-incidence optics for laboratory applications.
  • Two such applications are small-animal radionuclide imaging (§3.2.1) and cold-neutron imaging (§3.2.2).

3.2.1. Small-animal radionuclide imaging

  • Originally funded by the US National Institutes of Health, MSFC has collaborated with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), and University of California in San Francisco to explore the use of ENR grazing-incidence mirrors for radionuclide imaging of small animals.
  • 39 About a tenth the size of ENR mirror shells used for x-ray telescopes, the microscope mirror shells have a 480-mm focal length, 60-mm total P+S length, 60–70-mm diameters, and multilayer coating (by SAO).
  • The demonstration design employed 4 coaxially nested shells configured to provide 4X magnification radionuclide imaging using iodine 125 I (27 keV) or technetium 99m Tc (18 keV).
  • The imaging performance for this design is currently FWHM ≈ 100 m.

3.2.2. Cold-neutron imaging

  • Cold neutrons (of order 10 K or 1 meV) have deBroglie wavelengths comparable to x-ray (around 1 keV) wavelengths and reflect efficiently off smooth pure nickel surfaces.
  • 42,43 Currently, MSFC is funded by NIST to develop grazing-incidence neutron optics for a multi-step demonstration: (1) High-resolution imaging; (2) 1X-magnification imaging; and (3) large-magnification imaging.
  • RESEARCH TOWARD HIGH-RESOLUTION X-RAY OPTICS MSFC’s development and production of ENR grazing-incidence mirror systems successfully support numerous space and laboratory applications (§3) requiring good (HEW = 10–30 arcsec) angular resolution.
  • Achieving sub-arcsecond imaging—as needed for the Xray Surveyor—will likely require a substantially modified or a totally different approach.
  • Here the authors briefly describe three such research topics.

4.1. Differential deposition

  • Instead of removing material to correct the surface figure of a mirror, differential deposition 44,45,46 adds material—effectively filling in valleys rather than abrading the hills .
  • MSFC is developing this process 47,48 to correct the surface figure of light-weight grazing-incidence mirrors.
  • Based upon metrology during a sequence of differential-deposition runs, Figure 12 shows that the process can indeed improve the surface figure of a grazing-incidence mirror.
  • Note that the half-power diameter (HPD = HEW, Right panel) is a tworeflection equivalent calculated from the axial-profile metrology (Left panel) without and with filtering on spatial frequency.
  • X-ray tests are planned for later this year.

4.2. Control of coating stress

  • Coating stress deforms a thin mirror due to a film-on-substrate bimorph-like effect, as calculated using the Stoney equation.
  • Hence, it is important to control and to minimize coating stress and to distinguish intrinsic coating stress from thermally induced stresses due to film and substrate having different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE).
  • Accordingly, MSFC is engaged in a detailed research program to measure and to control coating stress, while depositing high-quality films—low surface roughness and good adhesion.

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X-ray optics at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Stephen L. O’Dell
a *
, Carolyn Atkins
b
, David M. Broadway
a
, Ronald F. Elsner
a
,
Jessica A. Gaskin
e
, Mikhail V. Gubarev
a
, Kiranmayee Kilaru
c
, Jeffery J. Kolodziejczak
a
,
Brian D. Ramsey
a
, Jacqueline M. Roche
a
, Douglas A. Swartz
a
, Allyn F. Tennant
a
,
Martin C. Weisskopf
a
, and Vyacheslav E. Zavlin
c
a
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL 35812, USA
b
University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899, USA
c
Universities Space Research Association, Marshall Space Flight Center,
Huntsville, AL 35812, USA
ABSTRACT
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) engages in research, development, design, fabrication, coating,
assembly, and testing of grazing-incidence optics (primarily) for x-ray telescope systems. Over the past two decades,
MSFC has refined processes for electroformed-nickel replication of grazing-incidence optics, in order to produce high-
strength, thin-walled, full-cylinder x-ray mirrors. In recent years, MSFC has used this technology to fabricate numerous
x-ray mirror assemblies for several flight (balloon, rocket, and satellite) programs. Additionally, MSFC has
demonstrated the suitability of this technology for ground-based laboratory applicationsnamely, x-ray microscopes
and cold-neutron microscopes and concentrators.
This mature technology enables the production, at moderately low cost, of reasonably lightweight x-ray telescopes with
good (1530 arcsecond) angular resolution. However, achieving arcsecond imaging for a lightweight x-ray telescope
likely requires development of other technologies. Accordingly, MSFC is conducting a multi-faceted research program
toward enabling cost-effective production of lightweight high-resolution x-ray mirror assemblies. Relevant research
topics currently under investigation include differential deposition for post-fabrication figure correction, in-situ
monitoring and control of coating stress, and direct fabrication of thin-walled full-cylinder grazing-incidence mirrors.
Keywords: X-ray telescopes, electroformed mirrors, x-ray optics, neutron optics, differential deposition, coating stress,
optics fabrication
1. INTRODUCTION
Launched in 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory
1,2
(Figure 1, Left) continues as NASA’s flagship mission for x-ray
astronomy. Its four nested, thick-walled, grazing-incidence mirror pairs (Figure 1, Right) uniquely provide sub-
arcsecond x-ray imaging of cosmic sources. Currently, the US x-ray-astronomy community is considering mission
concepts and enabling technologies for a worthy successor to Chandra. The optical performance requirements for this
“X-ray Surveyor” are likely to call for an angular resolution comparable to that of Chandra, with an aperture area 30
times larger.
3
Thus important technological and programmatic challenges
4,5
lie in the fabrication, alignment, and
mounting of lightweight grazing-incidence mirrors into a mirror assembly that affords sub-arcsecond x-ray imaging
with an aperture area ≈ 3 m
2
.
The X-ray Astronomy Team at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) began in 1977 with the arrival Martin Weisskopf
to serve as Project Scientist for the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), which became the Chandra X-ray
Observatory. Since then, the primary responsibility of the Team has been to support of the Chandra Project during
formulation, development, calibration, and operation of Chandra. We here briefly describe MSFC’s in-house research
and fabrication of grazing-incidence optics (primarily) for x-ray telescope systems.
*
Contact author (SLO): stephen.l.odell@nasa.gov; voice +1 (256) 961-7776; fax +1 (256) 961-7522
Postal address: NASA/MSFC/ZP12; 320 Sparkman Drive NW; Huntsville, AL 35805-1912 USA

Figure 1. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (Left) provides sub-arcsecond x-ray imaging of cosmic sources using four
precision grazing-incidence mirror pairs (Right).
Over the past two decades, MSFC has refined processes for electroformed-nickel replication (ENR) of grazing-
incidence optics 2). Currently, MSFC uses this technology to produce 3) x-ray telescopes for sub-orbital (balloon
and rocket) and in-space missions (§3.1), as well as grazing-incidence optics for (ground-based) laboratory applications
3.2). The angular resolution of ENR telescopes typically ranges from 15 to 30 half-energy width (HEW). While this
angular resolution suffices for many applications, it does not approach the fine resolution of Chandra that is desired for
an X-ray Surveyor. Consequently, MSFC is also conducting research 4) toward the goal of lightweight sub-arcsecond
x-ray telescopes. Current research topics include post-fabrication correction of (full-shell and segmented) replica
mirrors (§4.1), control of coating stress (§4.2), and direct fabrication of thin-walled full-shell mirrors (§4.3).
2. ELECTROFORMED-NICKEL REPLICATON (ENR)
Replication copies the surface figure of a precision mandrel onto a complementary mirror. It has two advantages over
direct fabrication 4.3). First, as the mandrel can be thick-walled and very stiff, it is less susceptible to deformation
during figuring and polishing. Second, as replication itself is inexpensive compared to precision figuring and polishing,
it becomes much more cost-effective to use replicated mirrors if the design calls for several mirrors of the same size and
shape. A disadvantage of replication is that the figure of the replicaespecially if the mirror is very thindoes not
perfectly match the shape of the precisely figured mandrel.
The prevalent replication technique for full-shell x-ray mirrors is nickel electroforming, which is used for ESA’s XMM-
Newton
6
and for several smaller satellite
7,8,9,10,11
and sub-orbital
12,13
missions. Pioneered for x-ray optics in Prague
14,15,16
and elsewhere
17,18,19
and refined in Italy,
20,21
MSFC has further improved the process over the past two decades. The
production of replicated x-ray mirrors comprises two top-level proceduresmandrel fabrication 2.1) and shell
fabrication (§2.2).
2.1. Mandrel fabrication
Figure 2 outlines the basic steps in fabricating a precision mandrel for electroformed-nickel replication (ENR) of a full-
shell grazing-incidence mirror. The mandrel typically incorporates primary (P) and secondary (S) conic frusta
monolithically so that the P and S surfaces of a full-shell replica are consequentially coaxial. This feature and the mirror
being a full shell greatly simplify alignment of mirror shells into a mirror assembly. While MSFC usually employs
single-point diamond turning of the electroless nickel to figure the mandrel’s P and S surfaces to the required optical
prescriptions, other figuring processese.g., precision grindingare possible and occasionally used. Final figuring,
smoothing, and superpolishing of the mandrel’s electroless-nickel surface utilize conventional lapping and polishing
methods using a custom precision lathe. Of course, throughout the mandrel fabrication, precision metrology is essential:
“The optic can be no better than the metrology.” To this end, MSFC utilizes a full suite of metrology instrumentation
spanning relevant spatial frequencies and geometriesincluding a large coordinate-measuring machine, circularity test
stand, Fizeau interferometer, long-trace profilometer, optical surface profiler, and atomic-force microscope.

Figure 2. Basic steps in fabricating a precision mandrel for electroformed nickel replication.
2.2. Shell fabrication
Figure 3 outlines the basic steps in electroforming a nickel replica full-shell grazing-incidence mirror off a precision
electroless-nickel-plated aluminum mandrel (§2.1). Again, the ENR mirrors usually are full shells and incorporate both
(P and S) grazing-incidence surfaces required for true imaging. Over the past two decades, MSFC has developed several
process refinements that now enable the successful fabrication of very thin (≈ 100-m) ENR mirror shells, although
applications typically utilize thicker shells to reduce mount-induced distortions during alignment and assembly.
Figure 3. Basic steps in electroforming a nickel replica full-shell grazing-incidence mirror.

One area of ENR process improvement is surface passivationcontrol of adhesion of the shell onto the mandrel. If
adhesion is too low, the plating will not stick to the mandrel well enough to form a shell; if too high, the formed shell
will not release in the chilled-water bath.
Historically, gold (deposited on the mandrel and transferred to the shell
during replication) served both as a passivating layer and as the optical coating of the mirror. For most x-ray-astronomy
applications, MSFC deposits an iridium optical coating onto the inner surface of the mirror shell after replication, in
order to take advantage of its x-ray reflectance, which is somewhat higher than that of gold. To accomplish this, MSFC
developed a chemical passivation process that allows electroforming nickel directly on an electroless-nickel plated
surface. More recently, MSFC has collaborated with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), to demonstrate
the use of a titanium nitride (TiN) as a durable passivation film on mandrels.
22
Such a film is hard, negligibly increases
the surface roughness, and enables deposition onto a mandrel of optical coatings (including multilayers) that adhere to
and release with the shell. This approach is particularly useful for coating small-diameter full shells, which allow
insufficient space for post-fabrication deposition of an optical coating.
A second area of ENR process improvement is control of electroforming stress and its uniformity.
23
To avoid lifting the
shell off the mandrel during electroforming, the deposition stress must be slightly tensile. In extreme instances, the
deposition stress may be so tensile that the shell will not release upon cooling. Typically, the tensile stress is small and
the shell separates; however, even a small residual tensile stress causes the ends of the mirror shell to hook inwards. If
the electroforming stress is just slightly tensile but uniform, distortion by the residual stress is confined to a small region
at the ends of the mirror shell and has little effect upon customary optical performance metricshalf-energy width
(HEW) and full-with at half maximum (FWHM),
A third area of ENR process improvement is development of nickel-alloy platings that exhibit a much higher precision
elastic limit (or micro-yield strength) than does pure nickel. Consequently, these nickel-alloy shells are significantly less
susceptible than pure-nickel shells to plastic deformation during release and handling. With these and other process
improvements, MSFC can produce very thin (≈ 100-m) ENR mirror shells of good (1020 arcsecond) intrinsic angular
resolution. Nevertheless, as thinner shells are more susceptible to mounting distortion, a general guideline is to make
shells no thinner than the application requirese.g., due to mass or filling-factor constraints.
3. PRODUCTION OF ENR GRAZING-INCIDENCE OPTICS
While MSFC is continuing research to improve further the performance of ENR grazing-incidence mirror systems, it
has and is currently producing x-ray mirror systems for several (sub-orbital and space) x-ray telescopes 3.1) and for
(ground-based) laboratory applications (§3.2).
3.1. X-ray telescopes
MSFC has produced numerous flight x-ray mirror modules for several balloon, rocket, and satellite missions. In most
cases, the telescope system comprises multiple ENR mirror assemblies and corresponding detectors, to benefit from the
substantial cost savings in optics fabrication afforded by replication. Furthermore, for a given mass allocation, multiple
mirror assemblies allow relatively stiffer mirrors than does a single mirror assembly with the same collecting area.
3.1.1. High-Energy Replicated Optics to Explore the Sun (HEROES)
HEROES is a joint balloon mission of MSFC and Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), designed to perform hard-x-
ray (2575 keV) imaging of the sun (during the day) and of cosmic sources (during the night). Flown in 2013
September, the HEROES payload (Figure 4) includes 8 mirror assemblies with 6-m focal length. Each mirror assembly
contains 14 coaxially nested iridium-coated ENR shells of 610-mm total (P+S) length and ranging in diameter from 50
mm to 94 mm. The half-energy width of the mirror assemblies is typically HEW ≈ 30 arcsec.
24
The HEROES payload is an enhanced version of MSFC’s High-Energy Replicated Optics (HERO) payload, modified
by GSFC to allow hard-x-ray observations of the sun. The original (proof-of-concept) HERO balloon flight in 2001
May obtained the first hard-x-ray focused images of cosmic sources, using just 2 modules of 3 ENR mirrors each.
25,26
Release of the shell from the mandrel upon cooling relies upon the shell material (nickel or a nickel alloy) having a
substantially lower coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) than the predominant mandrel material (aluminum).

Figure 4. High-Energy Replicated Optics to Explore the Sun (HEROES), showing the telescope’s 8 mirror assemblies
(Left) and an in-flight picture of the telescope pointed toward the sun for heliospheric observations (Right).
3.1.2. Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI)
FOXSI is a sub-orbital rocket mission led by the University of California at Berkeley, using x-ray optics from MSFC
and detectors from JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.
27
Designed to perform high-dynamic-range
medium-energy x-ray (515 keV) imaging of the sun for the study of x-ray microflares, FOXSI has thus far had two
successful flightsFOXSI-1 in 2012 November
28
and FOXSI-2 in 2014 December. The FOXSI telescope (Figure 5)
includes 7 mirror assemblies with 2-m focal length. For FOXSI-1 (FOXSI-2), each mirror assembly contains 7 (10)
coaxially nested iridium-coated ENR shells of 600-mm P+S length and ranging in diameter from 76 (63) mm to 103
mm. The mirror assemblies exhibit an imaging performance with HEW 25 arcsec and FWHM 5 arcsec, the later
metric being more important for this application.
Figure 5. Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI), showing the telescope’s 7 mirror assemblies (Left) and an image
of a solar microflare (Right) obtained during the first FOXSI flight.
3.1.3. Micro-X
Micro-X is a sub-orbital rocket mission led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), designed to obtain
soft-x-ray (0.23 keV) non-dispersive high-spectral-resolution imaging of supernova remnants.
29
Built in collaboration
with Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the detector

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References
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Proceedings ArticleDOI
Abstract: The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the x-ray component of NASA's Great Observatories, was launched early in the morning of 1999, July 23 by the Space Shuttle Columbia. The Shuttle launch was only the first step in placing the observatory in orbit. After release from the cargo bay, the Inertial Upper Stage performed two firings, and separated from the observatory as planned. Finally, after five firings of Chandra's own Integral Propulsion System--the last of which took place 15 days after launch--the observatory was placed in its highly elliptical orbit of approximately 140,000 km apogee and approximately 10,000 km perigee. After activation, the first x-rays focused by the telescope were observed on 1999, August 12. Beginning with these initial observations one could see that the telescope had survived the launch environment and was operating as expected. The month following the opening of the sun-shade door was spent adjusting the focus for each set of instrument configurations, determining the optical axis, calibrating the star camera, establishing the relative response functions, determining energy scales, and taking a series of `publicity' images. Each observation proved to be far more revealing than was expected. Finally, and despite an initial surprise and setback due to the discovery that the Chandra x-ray telescope was far more efficient for concentrating low-energy protons that had been anticipated, the observatory is performing well and is returning superb scientific data. Together with other space observations, most notably the recently activated XMM-Newton, it is clear that we are entering a new era of discovery in high-energy astrophysics.

423 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: A differential coating method is described for fabricating high-performance x-ray microfocusing mirrors. With this method, the figure of ultrasmooth spherical mirrors can be modified to produce elliptical surfaces with low roughness and low figure errors. Submicron focusing is demonstrated with prototype mirrors. The differential deposition method creates stiff monolithic mirrors which are compact, robust, and easy to cool and align. Prototype mirrors have demonstrated gains of more than 104 in beam intensity while maintaining submilliradian divergence on the sample. This method of producing elliptical mirrors is well matched to the requirements of an x-ray microdiffraction Kirkpatrick–Baez focusing system.

121 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: We are developing a balloon-borne hard-x-ray telescope that utilizes grazing incidence optics. Termed HERO, for High-Energy Replicated Optics, the instrument will provide unprecented sensitivity in the hard-x-ray region and will achieve milliCrab-level sensitivity in a typical 3-hour balloon-flight observation and 50 microCrab sensitivity on ultra-long-duration flights. A recent proof-of-concept flight, featuring a small number of mirror shells captured the first focused hard-x-ray images of galactic x-ray sources. Full details of the payload, its expected future performance and its recent measurements are provided.

78 citations


Proceedings ArticleDOI
03 Feb 2004
Abstract: The Swift Gamma-Ray Explorer is designed to make prompt multiwavelength observations of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and GRB Afterglows. The X-ray Telescope (XRT) provides key capabilities that permit Swift to determine GRB positions with a few arcseconds accuracy within 100 seconds of the burst onset. The XRT utilizes a superb mirror set built for JET-X and a state-of-the-art XMM/EPIC MOS CCD detector to provide a sensitive broad-band (0.2-10 keV) X-ray imager with effective area of 135 cm2 at 1.5 keV, field of view of 23.6 x 23.6 arcminutes, and angular resolution of 18 arcseconds (HEW). The detection sensitivity is 2x10-14 erg/cm2/s in 104 seconds. The instrument is designed to provide automated source detection and position reporting within 5 seconds of target acquisition. It can also measure redshifts of GRBs for bursts with Fe line emission or other spectral features. The XRT will operate in an auto-exposure mode, adjusting the CCD readout mode automatically to optimize the science return for each frame as the source fades. The XRT will measure spectra and lightcurves of the GRB afterglow beginning about a minute after the burst and will follow each burst for days as it fades from view.

60 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: We demonstrate neutron beam focusing by axisymmetric mirror systems based on a pair of mirrors consisting of a confocal ellipsoid and hyperboloid. Such a system, known as a Wolter mirror configuration, is commonly used in X-ray telescopes. The axisymmetric Wolter geometry allows nesting of several mirror pairs to increase collection efficiency. We implemented a system containing four nested Ni mirror pairs, which was tested by the focusing of a polychromatic neutron beam at the MIT Reactor. In addition, we have carried out extensive ray-tracing simulations of the mirrors and their performance in different situations. The major advantages of the Wolter mirrors are nesting for large angular collection and aberration-free performance. We discuss how these advantages can be utilized to benefit various neutron scattering methods, such as imaging, SANS, and time-of-flight spectroscopy.

46 citations