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Surviving a rocket launch: how cosine’s environmental testing facility ensures Silicon Pore Optics meet space mission standards

cosine installed and commissioned in-house capabilities for shock and vibration testing to carry out environmental qualification tests. These tests are crucial to ensure that the Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) meet the required acceptance levels. This guarantees their successful integration into the Athena telescope, their survival during rocket stage separations after launch, and an optimal performance in space.

Surviving a rocket launch in space poses a significant challenge for any instrument, including X-ray mirrors. Every detail of the preparation process is meticulously examined to prevent any mishaps or failures. During the production phase at cosine’s facilities, the SPO mirror modules undergo shock testing. This involves measuring the shock response spectrum and assessing its tolerance based on the requirements of the mission.

In this test, a model of our optics module, closely resembling our actual optics in dimension and mass, is placed on the table. Sensors are strategically installed, and a hammer/anvil is dropped from a specific angle, measured with an encoder. The shock response spectrum is then measured, and adjustments to the angle are made until it remains within the specified tolerances. Subsequently, the model is replaced with the actual optic, and the measurement is repeated. With high-speed cameras, we observe the effects of the shock on our optics. A resonance search before and after provides an additional layer of inspection.

Before and after the shock table test, our mirror modules undergo testing on a shaker system for random vibration and resonance searches. This is done before and after other environmental tests to ensure that our mirror modules survived the environmental testing intact. The shock table test and vibration test are part of cosine’s in-house environmental testing facility at our headquarters in Sassenheim, the Netherlands.

SPO mirror module on the shock table

Shaker installed in cosine’s cleanroom

Thermal vacuum testing, performed via a Thermal vacuum chamber (TVAC), is another step in environmental testing. It helps in qualifying our mirror modules for space and other extreme environmental conditions by allowing us to increase and decrease the temperature, to ensure that our optics survive the temperature conditions in space.

Check out cosine’s facilities on our website.

About SPO and Athena
cosine is developing and supplying for ESA’s Athena mission hundreds of X-ray optics mirror modules, using its novel Silicon Pore Optics technology. Athena (Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics, with a projected launch date in the 2030s, will be the largest X-ray telescope flown to date, equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instruments. It is designed to address key questions in astrophysics as part of the Cosmic Vision science program “The Hot and Energetic Universe”.

About cosine
cosine is a worldwide leading company in the development of innovative measurement solutions for space, such as Silicon Pore Optics and remote sensing instrumentation with onboard analytics. We combine physics and technology to bring out-of-the-box solutions to our clients. We have been developing and delivering innovative measurement systems for space and industrial applications since 1998. Our company operates 1,000 m2 of cleanrooms and high-tech assembly facilities to build and test the systems we produce for customers at our headquarters in Sassenheim, The Netherlands.

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