NASA and JAXA troubleshoot a new X-ray astronomy satellite

NEW ORLEANS — A Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite, with contributions from NASA and the European Space Agency, is performing well in orbit four months after launch, except for a problem that may affect one of its instruments.

The Japanese space agency JAXA launched the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) aboard the H-2A on September 6. XRISM is a replacement for the Hitomi spacecraft, which broke down shortly after launch in 2016.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and NASA released the first data from XRISM on January 5, showing the performance of its two main instruments, a spectrometer called Resolve and an imager called Xtend. NASA collaborated with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in developing Resolve, and also built the spacecraft's X-ray mirror array.

Official commissioning of XRISM is expected to be completed at the end of the month, said Richard Kelly, the US principal investigator for XRISM at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.Research and development The American Astronomical Society meets here on January 8. “The spacecraft is performing very well,” he said, with the hardware meeting or exceeding most requirements.

He said the only serious problem was the door opening to solve the problem. This door was supposed to open after launch, but it did not open despite numerous attempts to do so.

The door features a beryllium window and stainless steel mesh. Beryllium is relatively transparent to X-rays, so even if the door remains closed, the device is still able to operate but with reduced throughput, especially for low-energy X-rays.

“The JAXA is very serious and actively investigating what is happening here,” Kelly said. He did not estimate the chances that these efforts would open the hatch, but “people are very optimistic that he will be able to open it eventually.”

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“It's frustrating now for our team and our scientists who want to use the observatory, but you have to look at the big picture here,” he said, noting that most of the science planned for Resolve involved X-rays with lower, higher energies. Affected by the door. “We'll just have to keep an eye on some targets for a while longer.”

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