Mock-up of the XMM-Newton at the Cité de l'espace, Toulouse
|Launch date||10 December 1999|
|Launched from||Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana, South America|
|Launch vehicle||Ariane 5|
|Mission length||13 years, 4 months, and 20 days elapsed|
|Type of orbit||Elliptical|
|Orbit height||7,000 to 114,000 km|
|Orbit period||48 hours|
|Collecting area||4300 cm² (three mirror-assemblies of 1400 cm² each)|
|Focal length||7.5 m|
Originally known as the High Throughput X-ray Spectroscopy Mission it was placed in a very eccentric 48 hour elliptical orbit at 40°; at its apogee it is nearly 114,000 kilometres (71,000 mi) from Earth, while the perigee is only 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi)
The satellite weighs 3,800 kilograms (8,400 lb), is 10 metres (33 ft) long and 16 metres (52 ft) in span with its solar arrays deployed. It holds three X-ray telescopes, developed by Media Lario of Italy, each of which contains 58 Wolter-type concentric mirrors. The combined collecting area is 4,300 cm². The three European Photon Imaging Cameras (EPIC) are sensitive over the energy range 0.2 keV to 12 keV. Other instruments onboard are two reflection grating spectrometers which are sensitive below ~2 keV, and a 30 centimetres (12 in) diameter Ritchey-Chretien optical/UV telescope.
The mission was proposed in 1984 and approved in 1985; a project team was formed in 1993 and development work began in 1996. The satellite was constructed and tested from March 1997 to September 1999. Launched in Dec 1999, in-orbit commissioning started Jan 2000, and the first images were published Feb 2000. The original mission lifetime was two years, but it has now been extended for further observations until at least 2010, and again until 2012, and technically the observatory could operate until beyond 2018.
Observations are managed and archived at the European Space Astronomy Centre (formerly known as VILSPA) at Villafranca, Spain. Until March 2012 the scientific data placed into the archive and distributed to observers were processed by the XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre led by the University of Leicester, England. After this date, responsibility for data processing transferred to the Science Operations Centre at ESAC.
The European satellite XMM-Newton (X-ray Multi Mirror), built under contract to ESA by a consortium of 35 European companies with Astrium as prime contractor, by far excels its predecessor, the Astrium-built ROSAT satellite.
The observational scope of XMM Newton includes the detection of X-ray emissions from Solar System objects, detailed studies of star-forming regions, investigation of the formation and evolution of galaxy clusters, the environment of supermassive black holes and the mapping of the mysterious "dark matter".
The object SCP 06F6, discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in February 2006, was then observed by XMM Newton in early August 2006, and appeared to show an X-ray glow around it two orders of magnitude more luminous than that of supernovae.
In June 2011, a team from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, reported XMM-Newton seeing a flare that lasted four hours at a peak intensity of 10,000 times the normal rate, from an observation of Supergiant Fast X-Ray Transient IGR J18410-0535, where a blue supergiant star shed a plume of matter that was partly ingested by the smaller neutron star with the accompanying X-ray emissions.
Each telescope consists of 58 600 mm-long shells, with diameters from 306 to 700 millimetres, and thickness linearly dependent on the diameter increasing from 470 µm at the small shells to 1070 µm at the large one; the fully assembled telescope has gaps of about one millimetre between the shells. The shells are made by electroforming onto a highly polished aluminium mandrel, starting with a 250 nm layer of vapour-deposited gold that becomes the reflecting surface, then the nickel support; the mandrels are reusable but a different one is needed for each shell. The electroforming deposits nickel at a rate of 10 µm per hour. The mandrels were manufactured at Carl Zeiss, and the electroforming and final assembly performed at Media Lario; Kayser-Threde also played a role.
The shells are glued into grooves in an Inconel spider, which keeps them aligned to within the five-micron tolerance required to get adequate X-ray resolution.
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