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Unveiling MINERVA: enabling the future of astronomy with a new beamline for testing ATHENA’s X-ray optics

In the pursuit of pushing the boundaries of X-ray astronomy, the combined efforts of cosine, ALBA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and National Metrology Institute PTB, have led to the development of MINERVA, a new beamline to prepare cosine’s Silicon Pore Optics for ESA’s ATHENA mission. A first test was performed at the ALBA synchrotron near Barcelona on 23 May 2023.

MINERVA is a soft X-ray beamline designed to support the development of the ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics) mission and is funded by ESA and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. It will be used to assemble and test our Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) mirrors in preparation for the Athena X-ray telescope, in addition to the PTB (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt) beamlines at the BESSY synchrotron in Berlin. This new beamline represents a significant leap forward in our work as it will accelerate the development of Athena’s SPO mirrors, and will enable the construction of the largest X-ray lens ever made.

The beamline design is based on the monochromatic pencil beam facility XPBF 2.0 (PTB BESSY II) and will provide metrology capabilities to integrate stacks produced by cosine into a mirror module (MM) and characterize them.

MINERVA is becoming ready for operation. This achievement brings scientists and researchers one step closer to the ATHENA observatory, which will be a transformative tool for studying the universe’s most enigmatic phenomena through the powerful lens of this giant X-ray telescope.

Read more about MINERVA on ALBA’s website.

About SPO
Silicon Pore Optics is a revolutionary technology invented and produced by cosine, in cooperation with ESA. It involves the bonding and stacking of many silicon wafers, creating a novel type of lightweight X-ray lens. cosine’s High Energy Optics business unit is internationally known for the development and application of X-ray optics and systems. It combines and applies knowledge about semiconductor processes, silicon, glass, and mass production to develop and produce lightweight, high-resolution X-ray optics. Those find applications ranging from space-based astrophysical telescopes to medical, semiconductor, and material analysis systems used by industry and academia.

About cosine
cosine is a leading worldwide company in the development of space instrumentation, such as Silicon Pore Optics and 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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