Milan, 09th.12.2021 – Today at 07.00 a.m. (CET time) the IXPE (Imaging X Ray Polarimetry Explorer) satellite was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA. IXPE, the new space explorer with three telescopes on board, is now in orbit with the challenging targets of observing the universe at high energies and measuring the polarisation in X-rays emitted by large cosmic sources such as supernovas, black holes and pulsars.
OHB Italia, as unique industrial partner, realized fundamental parts of the satellite: the Detector Unit Electronics (BEE), the so-called Filter and Calibration Wheel Mechanism and the Detector Service Unit (DSU) which controls the Detector Units and provides a variety of functions as thermal control of detector, collecting scientific data and also interfaces to the rest of the spacecraft.
IXPE was born as a NASA mission for the SMEX (Small Explorer Program) and it was developed with a strong Italian contribution coordinated and funded by ASI – Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, which will also support the Mission making available its Space Center in Malindi for data reception. INFN – Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare and INAF – Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, developed and qualified the highly innovative X-ray Detector Units able to measure the polarization of X-rays emitted by cosmic sources.
There are high expectations of the astrophysical community for the IXPE Mission because it will enable to analyse celestial objects with extreme magnetic-gravitational fields with a detail never seen before and to determine the angles and degrees of polarisation of point sources.
X-ray astronomy will take with IXPE an innovative and strong step forward.