Space, Ixpe ready to launch

Saccoccia: “ASI collaboration with NASA, Italian Infn-Inaf bodies and national industry: modest resources and enviable times”

Ixpe is ready to take off. And the scientific objectives of the joint NASA and ASI mission point to studies based on X-ray polarization. Ixpe – Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer will depart from Kennedy Space Center in Florida next December 9th at 7 am, Italian time. The mission was selected by NASA on January 3, 2017 as part of the SMEX – Small Explorer space program. The satellite will be launched aboard Space X’s Falcon 9 vector and will have a circular orbit at 540 km in height and 0 degrees of inclination. The commissioning phase will start on the day of the launch and will end on January 9th, while the first calibration observation is scheduled for January 10th 2022. Ixpe will perform for the first time high sensitivity polarization measurements from celestial sources that emit X-rays such as pulsars, magnetars, black holes and supernova remnants, was explained during the pre-launch press conference held this morning, in hybrid mode, at the headquarters of the ASI and in which the presidents of the three research bodies involved in the mission took part: Giorgio Saccoccia of the ASI Marco Tavani dell ‘Inaf and Antonio Zoccoli of the Infn who provided an overview of the mission.

The satellite will have 3 telescopes on board with detectors based on the innovative technology of Gas Pixel Detectors (Gpd) conceived and developed by Infn and Inaf with funding from the Italian Space Agency. Furthermore, ASI will make its two centers available: the Space Science Data Center and the ‘Luigi Broglio’ Space Center, respectively for the processing of scientific analyzes and the reception of data. The other partners of the mission are the University of Rome 3, involved in the scientific part, and Ohb, the industrial partner who supplied the Detector Service Unit, the Filter and Calibration Wheels, the high voltage boards and the Detection Unit Set. development of the mission represented a great challenge because, it was underlined during the conference at ASI, the detectors, real technological jewels, were made in record time, only three years, thanks to the synergy between research bodies and industries involved.

“Ixpe represents our vocation towards science and expresses the vision of the Italian space and of the Agency” underlined the president of the Italian Space Agency, Giorgio Saccoccia. “The satellite – he explained – is an example of technological innovation because on board it has technological jewels that are the fruit of Italian inventiveness and genius”. Asi’s number one also noted that “in this mission there is both international collaboration with NASA and national collaboration with the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, the National Institute of Astrophysics and the Italian industry. All carried out with modest resources and in enviable times “.

During today’s conference Barbara Negri, Human Flight and Scientific Instrumentation Manager of Asi, highlighted the role of the Italian Space Agency together with Imma Donnarumma, Ixpe Project Scientist for Asi. Instead, the science of Ixpe was told by Paolo Soffitta, Italian Principal Investigator of INAF, and by Luca Baldini, Italian Co-Principal Investigator of Infn. Finally, the industrial role was emphasized by Paolo Lorenzi, Head of scientific instruments pre-developments at Ohb Italia. The development of the mission, ASI recalled, represented a great challenge: the detectors, real technological jewels, were made in record time, only three years, thanks to the synergy between research bodies and the industries involved.