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The Spectrometer Teclescope for Imaging X-rays (STIX) includes an Imager (left) and Detector Module (right) (Photo: FHNW)

The STIX Instrument

Spectrometer Telescope for Imaging X-rays (STIX)

Art of Technology was awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the design, development, production and supply of the Detector Electronics Module (DEM) used in the STIX instrument, a Swiss experiment, funded by the Swiss Space Office and one of ten instruments on-board the Solar Orbiter.

Launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on 10th February 2020, Solar Orbiter will travel to within 45 million km of the Sun (¼ of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, closer than any other spacecraft to date allowing a portion of the surface to be observed for longer periods of time without interruption. The Solar Orbiter mission will address the central questions of helio-physics, i.e. how does the Sun create and control the heliosphere?

Developed and built under the leadership of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern (FHNW), the STIX instrument will provide observations of the sun with unprecedented sharpness and direct measurements of solar winds and charged particles close to their point of origin. The new orbit will allow study of the far side of the Sun that cannot be seen from Earth… and for the first time, the polar regions.

STIX will contribute to understanding the mechanisms behind the acceleration of electrons at the Sun and their transport into the interplanetary space. STIX will also play a key role in linking remote-sensing and in-situ observations on Solar Orbiter with imaging spectroscopy of solar thermal and non-thermal X-ray emissions providing quantitative information on the timing, location, intensity and spectra of accelerated electrons as well as of high temperature thermal plasmas, which are mostly associated with flares or micro-flares in the solar corona and chromosphere.

The STIX instrument is divided into three subsystems operating in two different thermal environments: Feedthrough with two X-ray windows, Grids with aspect system and the Detector Electronics Module (DEM). The Grids and DEM are located inside the spacecraft, while the feedthrough is surrounded by the heat-shield and one of the windows is directly exposed to the Sun. The spacecraft interior temperature is kept at +50°C and -20°C in hot and cold operational modes respectively, while the CdTe detectors located inside the DEM are kept at around -20°C by a cold element provided by the spacecraft.

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Stix DEM

Detector Electronics Module (DEM)

Stix DEM DeE Q1

Optical Alignment of the Detector Electronics (DeE-Q1)

Detector Electronics Module (DEM)

Customer: European Space Agency (ESA)
ESA Contract No. 4000108509/13/NL/JC

The Detector Electronics Module includes cold electronics with 32 detectors (aligned behind each collimator of the imager to perform photon-counting and spectroscopy in the hard X-ray range, as well as analogue buffers, filters and temperature sensors) connected to a cold element at −20°C, and warm front-end electronics (including analogue-to-digital converters, voltage regulators, test pulse generator, filters) possibly at +50°C.

The Instrument Data Processing Unit (IDPU) includes Power Supply Units (PSU), FPGAs to control the Detectors (configuration and event readout) and all ADC (for aspect system photodiode, temperature and photon energy signal encoding) as well as flight application software for scientific data processing and Space-wire communication with the spacecraft.

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Our Contribution

Design, development, production, integration and test ofSystem design support
  • Detector Electronics (DeE)
  • High Voltage Electronics (HVE)
  • Back-End Electronics (BEE)
  • Support and review of flight design layout (PSU)
  • Interface to Power Supply Unit (PSU)
  • Interface to Instrument Data Processing Unit (IDPU)
Support instrument integration and testingElectronic Ground Support Equipment (EGSE)
  • Power Supply Unit (PSU)
  • Instrument Data Processing Unit (IDPU)
  • Supervision of functional testing during production
  • Supervision of functional testing during integration
  • Supervision of EMC testing,
  • Supervision of Qualification & Acceptance testing
  • Production and test of electronics and test adaptors