ESP2016-76683:Athena, Phase A/B1. Scientific participation and development of the X-IFU instrument

​Participants: M.T.Ceballos (PI), X. Barcons, B. Cobo, S.Martínez-Núñez, M.P.Monterde

This rolling grant requests financial support to conduct scientific and technological developments in the framework of the Athena mission, the second large (L2) mission of ESA’s science programme Cosmic Vision 2015-2035. Athena is currently in its Phase A and Phase B1 will follow until mid 2019. The next key milestone for Athena in ESA is the mission adoption, expected in February 2020. The instrument AO is to be released in July 2016 with a decision adopted late 2016 by ESA’s SPC. Athena will address The Hot and Energetic Universe science theme via a large X-ray observatory mission with challenging but transformational instrumentation. In particular the X-IFU will provide for the first time (after the unfortunate failure of Hitomi) highly sensitive spatially-resolved high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy. In the framework of the coming study phases of the mission, we request funding for Athena science support activities and for technological and scientific developments in the X-IFU instrument, as part of the Spanish participation in the mission. The R&D activities to be performed within this coordinated rolling grant are the following:

1. At mission-level, we will operate the Athena Community Office, as the essential scientific and coordination support agent to canvas the contributions from the large research community (over 800 people) that are part of the Athena community Working Groups. At X-IFU level we will continue leading and participating in science assessment activities through the X-IFU Science Advisory Team, and the X-IFU Consortium Management Team.

2. The development of Mo/Au-based cryogenic detectors in support of the European backup activities for the X-IFU front-end array. The scope of this R&D exceeds the envelope of the X-IFU development and opens the opportunity of exploring further applications of this technology to space, particle detectors and security.

3. The development of a software prototype of the X-IFU event processor, identifying the optimal processing algorithms to be later implemented into space-qualified hardware, performing all the necessary trade-offs and testing activities.

Astrophysical research activities in preparation for Athena/X-IFU science exploitation, particularly using high-resolution X-ray observations of massive stars and X-ray binaries with current facilities.

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