The eXTP (enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry) mission is a major project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and China National Space Administration (CNSA) currently performing an extended phase A study and proposed for a launch by 2025 in a low-earth orbit. The eXTP scientific payload envisages a suite of instruments (Spectroscopy Focusing Array, Polarimetry Focusing Array, Large Area Detector and Wide Field Monitor) offering unprecedented simultaneous wide-band X-ray spectral, timing and polarimetry sensitivity. A large European consortium is contributing to the eXTP study and it is expected to provide key hardware elements, including a Large Area Detector (LAD). The LAD instrument for eXTP is based on the design originally proposed for the LOFT mission within the ESA context. The eXTP/LAD envisages a deployed 3.4 m2 effective area in the 2-30 keV energy range, achieved through the technology of the large-area Silicon Drift Detectors - offering a spectral resolution of up to 200 eV FWHM at 6 keV - and of capillary plate collimators - limiting the field of view to about 1 degree. In this paper we provide an overview of the LAD instrument design, including new elements with respect to the earlier LOFT configuration.
We present the design and experimental demonstration of a 16-channel frequency domain multiplexing (FDM) readout for transition-edge sensor (TES) bolometers. This readout system is going to be implemented on the LSPE/SWIPE balloon-borne experiment, whose goal is to detect the polarization of cosmic microwave background (CMB) at large angular scales and whose launch is scheduled for December 2019.
We describe the fabrication process of the Niobium superconducting inductors and the qualification tests performed in our 300 mK cryogenic facility in INFN Pisa of the boomerang shaped PCBs hosting the LC chains and the gradiometric SQUIDs, which are going to be mounted on the back of the SWIPE focal planes. The development of the warm readout electronics is presented, together with the firmware for the generation and readout of the biasing frequency comb.
The PixFEL collaboration has developed the building blocks for an X-ray imager to be used in applications at FELs. In particular, slim edge pixel detectors with high detection efficiency over a broad energy range, from 1 to 12 keV, have been developed. Moreover, a multichannel readout chip, called PFM2 (PixFEL front-end Matrix 2) and consisting of 32 × 32 cells, has been designed and fabricated in a 65 nm CMOS technology. The pixel pitch is 110 μm, the overall area is around 16 mm2. In the chip, different solutions have been implemented for the readout channel, which includes a charge sensitive amplifier (CSA) with dynamic signal compression, a time-variant shaper and an A-to-D converter with a 10 bit resolution. The CSA can be configured in four different gain modes, so as to comply with photon energies in the 1 to 10 keV range. The paper will describe in detail the channel architecture and present the results from the characterization of PFM2. It will discuss the design of a new version of the chip, called PFM3, suitable for post-processing with peripheral, under-pad through silicon vias (TSVs), which are needed to develop four-side buttable chips and cover large surfaces with minimum inactive area.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) is a mission concept which was proposed to ESA as M3 and M4 candidate in the framework of the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument and the uniquely large field of view of its wide field monitor, LOFT will be able to study the behaviour of matter in extreme conditions such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions close to black holes and neutron stars and the supra-nuclear densities in the interiors of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, >8m2 effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1 degree collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g., GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the current technical and programmatic status of the mission.
We present the design and first tests of a prototype readout for the SWIPE instrument onboard the LSPE balloon-borne experiment. LSPE aims at measuring the linear polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) at large angular scales, to find the imprint of inflation on the B-mode CMB polarization. The SWIPE instrument hosts two focal planes hosting 163 TES Au/Mo spiderweb bolometers each, cooled at 0.3 K for the detection of microwave frequencies of 140, 220 and 240 GHz.
To read all the detectors, a 16 channel frequency domain multiplexing readout system has been devised, consisting of LC resonators composed of custom Nb superconducting inductors and commercial SMD capacitors.
A set-up consisting of 14 LC resonators shows that we can accommodate 16 channels in the frequency range between 200 kHz and 1.6 MHz, since the necessary line-widths can be achieved. A preliminary firmware for the generation and read-out of the biasing frequency comb is also discussed.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) was studied within ESA M3 Cosmic Vision framework and participated in the final downselection for a launch slot in 2022-2024. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument, LOFT will study the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions, such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions of accretion flows close to black holes and neutron stars, and the supranuclear densities in the interior of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, 10 m2 effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1° collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g. GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the status of the mission at the end of its Phase A study.
LOFT (Large Observatory for X-ray Timing) is one of the five candidates that were considered by ESA as an M3 mission (with launch in 2022-2024) and has been studied during an extensive assessment phase. It is specifically designed to perform fast X-ray timing and probe the status of the matter near black holes and neutron stars. Its pointed instrument is the Large Area Detector (LAD), a 10 m2-class instrument operating in the 2-30keV range, which holds the capability to revolutionise studies of variability from X-ray sources on the millisecond time scales.
The LAD instrument has now completed the assessment phase but was not down-selected for launch. However, during the assessment, most of the trade-offs have been closed leading to a robust and well documented design that will be reproposed in future ESA calls. In this talk, we will summarize the characteristics of the LAD design and give an overview of the expectations for the instrument capabilities.
The LOFT mission concept is one of four candidates selected by ESA for the M3 launch opportunity as Medium Size missions of the Cosmic Vision programme. The launch window is currently planned for between 2022 and 2024. LOFT is designed to exploit the diagnostics of rapid X-ray flux and spectral variability that directly probe the motion of matter down to distances very close to black holes and neutron stars, as well as the physical state of ultradense matter. These primary science goals will be addressed by a payload composed of a Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM). The LAD is a collimated (<1 degree field of view) experiment operating in the energy range 2-50 keV, with a 10 m2 peak effective area and an energy resolution of 260 eV at 6 keV. The WFM will operate in the same energy range as the LAD, enabling simultaneous monitoring of a few-steradian wide field of view, with an angular resolution of <5 arcmin. The LAD and WFM experiments will allow us to investigate variability from submillisecond QPO’s to yearlong transient outbursts. In this paper we report the current status of the project.
The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) is one of the four candidate ESA M3 missions considered for launch in
the 2022 timeframe. It is specifically designed to perform fast X-ray timing and probe the status of the matter near black
holes and neutron stars. The LOFT scientific payload is composed of a Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field
Monitor (WFM). The LAD is a 10 m2-class pointed instrument with 20 times the collecting area of the best past timing
missions (such as RXTE) over the 2-30 keV range, which holds the capability to revolutionize studies of X-ray
variability down to the millisecond time scales. Its ground-breaking characteristic is a low mass per unit surface,
enabling an effective area of ~10 m2 (@10 keV) at a reasonable weight. The development of such large but light
experiment, with low mass and power per unit area, is now made possible by the recent advancements in the field of
large-area silicon detectors - able to time tag an X-ray photon with an accuracy <10 μs and an energy resolution of ~260
eV at 6 keV - and capillary-plate X-ray collimators. In this paper, we will summarize the characteristics of the LAD
instrument and give an overview of its capabilities.
In the context of the design of wide-field of view experiments for X-ray astronomy, we studied the response to X-rays in
the range between 2 and 60 keV of a large area Silicon Drift Chamber originally designed for particle tracking in high
energy physics. We demonstrated excellent imaging and spectroscopy performance of monolithic 53 cm2 detectors, with
position resolution as good as 30 μm and energy resolution in the range 300-570 eV FWHM obtainable at room
temperature (20 °C). In this paper we show the results of test campaigns at the X-ray facility at INAF/IASF Rome, aimed
at characterizing the detector performance by scanning the detector area with highly collimated spots of monochromatic
X-rays. In these tests we used a detector prototype equipped with discrete read-out front-end electronics.
The use of large-area, fine-pitch Silicon detectors has demonstrated the feasibility of wide field imaging experiments
requesting very low resources in terms of weight, volume, power and costs. The flying SuperAGILE instrument
is the first such experiment, adopting large-area Silicon microstrip detectors coupled to one-dimensional
coded masks. With less than 10 kg, 12 watt and 0.04 m3 it provides 6-arcmin angular resolution over >1 sr field
of view. Due to odd operational conditions, SuperAGILE works in the unfavourable energy range 18-60 keV. In
this paper we show that the use of innovative large-area Silicon Drift Detectors allows to design experiments with
arcmin-imaging performance over steradian-wide fields of view, in the energy range 2-50 keV, with spectroscopic
resolution in the range of 300-570 eV (FWHM) at room temperature. We will show the concept, design and
readiness of such an experiment, supported by laboratory tests on large-area prototypes. We will quantify the
expected performance in potential applications on X-ray astronomy missions for the observation and long-term
monitoring of Galactic and extragalactic transient and persistent sources, as well as localization and fine study
of the prompt emission of Gamma-Ray Bursts in soft X-rays.
The X-ray sky in high time resolution holds the key to a number of observables related to fundamental physics,
inaccessible to other types of investigations, such as imaging, spectroscopy and polarimetry. Strong gravity effects, the
measurement of the mass of black holes and neutron stars, the equation of state of ultradense matter are among the
objectives of such observations. The prospects for future, non-focused X-ray timing experiments after the exciting age of
RXTE/PCA are very uncertain, mostly due to the technological limitations that need to be faced to realize experiments
with effective areas in the range of several square meters, meeting the scientific requirements. We are developing large-area
monolithic Silicon drift detectors offering high time and energy resolution at room temperature, with modest
resources and operation complexity (e.g., read-out) per unit area. Based on the properties of the detector and read-out
electronics we measured in laboratory, we built a concept for a realistic unprecedented large mission devoted to X-ray
timing in the energy range 2-30 keV. We show that effective areas in the range of 10-15 square meters are within reach,
by using a conventional spacecraft platform and launcher.