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Towards a brighter future: new ESA contract advances Silicon Pore Optics for Athena

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a new contract to cosine for the ongoing development of Silicon Pore Optics (SPO), the X-ray mirror modules intended for use in the future large X-ray telescope, Athena. This new contract propels the efforts of the SPO technology development team and comes along with an ongoing expansion of our cleanrooms and capacities.

This activity will ensure the continued development of the Silicon Pore Optics technology for the Athena mission as part of the effort to ready the mission for its adoption. It will facilitate the consolidation of all steps in the SPO production process and enable the exploration and testing of various process additions that may significantly improve the optics performance. The contract is led by cosine and is executed in collaboration with various industrial and academic partners with whom cosine and ESA have been working for many years, such as the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt – PTB (DE), the ALBA Synchrotron (ES), the Brera Astronomical Observatory – INAF/OAB (IT), the Technical University of Denmark – DTU (DK), CHEXS (DK), Micronit (NL), Teledyne (UK), and Zeiss (SWI).

Athena (Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics) is a mission designed to address key questions in astrophysics as part of the Cosmic Vision science theme, “The Hot and Energetic Universe”. This ambitious project comes with many challenges, and as a result, the giant telescope will be equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instruments.

cosine’s staff has been involved in numerous high-energy astrophysics missions for over 20 years. Leveraging our expertise in X-ray technologies, we can tackle challenges related to X-ray imaging, focusing, modeling, and analysis. Our unique expertise and heritage have enabled the development and production of optics for the next generation X-ray telescopes.

Silicon Pore Optics consist of stacked X-ray mirrors that, when combined in a large number of modules, form a full X-ray lens for X-ray astronomy and ground-based X-ray instrumentation. Due to the light passing through hollow pores, the modules have very low mass compared to other X-ray optics technology with similar imaging resolution, which makes it the most lightweight high-quality X-ray optics in the world. Coatings on the silicon mirror plates allow for high-energy X-ray and gamma-ray focusing.

About cosine
cosine is a leading worldwide company in the development of space instrumentation, such as Silicon Pore Optics or remote sensing solutions with onboard processing. 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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