SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have agreed on a long term cooperation in the field of space science. As a first step SRON will contribute to the ASTRO-H mission, the Japanese X-Ray astronomy mission to study large-scale structures of the Universe, extreme conditions of the Universe near black holes, acceleration of cosmic rays to very high energies and dark matter among other things. SRON will participate in the Soft X-ray Spectrometer of ASTRO-H, which will allow imaging of clusters of galaxies and supernova remnants with unprecedented spectral resolution. SRON is also leading the preparation for SAFARI, the European far-infrared imaging spectrometer which is proposed for the Japanese future infrared astronomical observatory mission, SPICA.
The agreement between SRON and JAXA was signed on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009, at the Dutch embassy in Tokyo. The overall covenant was signed Dr. Junjiro Onoda (JAXA director for Space Science) and Dr. Roel Gathier (director SRON); the ASTRO-H agreement was signed by Prof Tadayuki Takahashi (JAXA) and Dr Jan-Willem den Herder (SRON). The formal agreement on future cooperation builds on a long standing and fruitful cooperation between Japanese and Dutch space scientists in the field of X-ray astronomy. SRON is pleased to intensify the relations once again, said SRON acting director dr. Roel Gathier in his speech prior to signing the agreement.
Roel Gathier: “International cooperation is imperative in modern day space research. And JAXA is a highly esteemed partner. I expect that - in addition to SRONs contribution to the ASTRO-H mission - there are various fields in which SRON and JAXA can strengthen future collaboration. SRON is already leading the preparation for the European space instrument SAFARI, proposed for the Japanese mission SPICA. SRON has also a strong track record in the field of research into the chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere, related to climate change, air pollution and ozone depletion. Combined analysis of space data from the Japanese SMILES mission and balloon borne data from the SRON TELIS experiment, will allow for an independent cross calibration of both instruments and might also lead to future collaboration.”
As a first step in the collaboration with JAXA SRON will participate in the Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS), which is one of the main instruments of the Japanese ASTRO-H mission. The spectrometer is being built by Japan (JAXA/ISAS and the US (NASA/GSFC) with a contribution from Europe. SXS will allow imaging of extended objects, such as clusters of galaxies and supernova remnants with unprecedented spectral resolution. The SRON hardware contribution includes a filter wheel (together with the University of Geneva) and the onboard calibration sources. The planned launch date is in JFY2013.
Dr. Jan Willem den Herder, project leader for SRON: "The purpose of the filter wheel is to tune the scientific performance of the instrument to enable clear observations of a large variety of astro-physical sources. The spectra of these sources vary widely in terms of intensity and spectral shape, which may for instance cause an overload of the spectrometer in the case of strong X-ray sources. Dedicated filters can prevent this and optimize the scientific returns of the instrument. The unique spectral resolution of the instrument furthermore requires continuous monitoring to correct for small drifts in the energy scale of the instrument. This requires a novel type of an on-board X-ray calibration source, which can be turned on and off. Such a source will be developed for the ASTRO-H mission by SRON. Finally, SRON will also contribute to the design, calibration, operations and science interpretation of the data."
The cooperation in ASTRO-H may well be a prelude to future cooperation in other missions as well. Jan Willem den Herder: "We are already joining forces with our American and Japanese colleagues in the realization of the cryogenic X-ray spectrometer for the International X-ray Observatory, currently under study by JAXA, NASA and ESA. Also the small satellite DIOS, under study in Japan, will be a natural opportunity for future cooperation.” And as said above SRON is also leading the preparation for the European instrument SAFARI, currently under study by ESA and JAXA, proposed for the Japanese space telescope SPICA, with a planned launch date in JFY2018. SAFARI will be a far-Infrared imaging spectrometer exploiting the sensitivity of the SPICA telescope, which has a cooled 3,5 m mirror.