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|Michael Wise (Scientific Director)|
SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research is the Dutch expertise institute for space research. The Institute develops and uses innovative technology for research in space, focusing on astrophysical research, Earth science and planetary research. SRON has a line of research into new and more sensitive sensors for X-rays and infrared radiation.
SRON was founded in 1983 under the former names Stichting Ruimteonderzoek Nederland / Space Research Organisation Netherlands. SRON is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and has facilities in Utrecht and in Groningen.
Utrecht is the fourth-largest city and a municipality of the Netherlands, capital and most populous city of the province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and in the very centre of mainland Netherlands, and had a population of 345,080 in 2017.
Groningen is the main municipality as well as the capital city of the eponymous province in the Netherlands. It is the largest city in the north of the Netherlands and has approximately 230,000 inhabitants. The Groningen-Assen metropolitan area has about half a milion inhabitants. Groningen is an old city and was the regional power of the north of the Netherlands, a semi-independent city-state and member of the German Hanseatic League. Groningen is a university city, with an estimated 31,000 students at the University of Groningen, and an estimated 29,000 at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences.
The institute has over 250 staff who are employed at a support department and five divisions: High-Energy Astrophysics (HEA), Low-Energy Astrophysics (LEA), Earth and Planetary Science (EPS), Sensor Research and Technology (SR&T) and Engineering Division (ED).
SRON’s ambition is to act as leading institute in the development of state-of-the-art satellite instruments for space research missions of ESA, NASA and other agencies. Through the years SRON technology has contributed to many ground-breaking space missions, mainly dedicated to mapping the infrared sky (e.g. IRAS, ISO, HIFI/Herschel), analyzing X-ray and gamma ray sources (e.g. CGRO/COMPTEL, Beppo-SAX, Chandra, XMM-Newton) and studying the Earth atmosphere (SCIAMACHY/ENVISAT). Examples of future missions to which SRON will contribute are SPICA (infrared), ASTRO-H (X-ray) and Sentinel 5 Precursor (Earth atmosphere). The institute is also planning contributions to missions which will study other planets in the Solar System and beyond.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
The Solar System is the gravitationally bound planetary system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of the objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest are the eight planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as the five dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. Of the objects that orbit the Sun indirectly—the moons—two are larger than the smallest planet, Mercury.
The Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics (ATHENA) is a future X-ray telescope of the European Space Agency, under development for launch around 2031. It is the second (L2) large class mission within ESA Cosmic Vision Program. ATHENA will be one hundred times more sensitive than the best of existing X-ray telescopes—the Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), is a Flagship-class space telescope launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. Chandra is sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors. Since the Earth's atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of X-rays, they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes; therefore space-based telescopes are required to make these observations. Chandra is an Earth satellite in a 64-hour orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2019.
XMM-Newton, also known as the High Throughput X-ray Spectroscopy Mission and the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission, is an X-ray space observatory launched by the European Space Agency in December 1999 on an Ariane 5 rocket. It is the second cornerstone mission of ESA's Horizon 2000 programme. Named after physicist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton, the spacecraft is tasked with investigating interstellar X-ray sources, performing narrow- and broad-range spectroscopy, and performing the first simultaneous imaging of objects in both X-ray and optical wavelengths.
BeppoSAX was an Italian–Dutch satellite for X-ray astronomy which played a crucial role in resolving the origin of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most energetic events known in the universe. It was the first X-ray mission capable of simultaneously observing targets over more than 3 decades of energy, from 0.1 to 300 kiloelectronvolts (keV) with relatively large area, good energy resolution and imaging capabilities. BeppoSAX was a major programme of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) with the participation of the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes (NIVR). The prime contractor for the space segment was Alenia while Nuova Telespazio led the development of the ground segment. Most of the scientific instruments were developed by the Italian National Research Council (CNR) while the Wide Field Cameras were developed by the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and the LECS was developed by the astrophysics division of the European Space Agency's ESTEC facility.
The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was a space observatory detecting photons with energies from 20 keV to 30 GeV, in Earth orbit from 1991 to 2000. It featured four main telescopes in one spacecraft, covering X-rays and gamma rays, including various specialized sub-instruments and detectors. Following 14 years of effort, the observatory was launched from Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-37 on April 5, 1991, and operated until its deorbit on June 4, 2000. It was deployed in low earth orbit at 450 km (280 mi) to avoid the Van Allen radiation belt. It was the heaviest astrophysical payload ever flown at that time at 17,000 kilograms (37,000 lb).
Hitomi, also known as ASTRO-H and New X-ray Telescope (NeXT), was an X-ray astronomy satellite commissioned by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for studying extremely energetic processes in the Universe. The space observatory was designed to extend the research conducted by the Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA) by investigating the hard X-ray band above 10 keV. The satellite was originally called New X-ray Telescope; at the time of launch it was called ASTRO-H. After it was placed in orbit and its solar panels deployed, it was renamed Hitomi. The new name refers to the pupil of an eye, and to a legend of a painting of four dragons, two of which were given eyes and flew into the sky, and two that were left eyeless and stayed as motionless art. The spacecraft was launched on 17 February 2016 and contact was lost on 26 March 2016, due to multiple incidents with the attitude control system leading to an uncontrolled spin rate and breakup of structurally weak elements.
In various wavelength areas SRON’s sensors are already some of the most sensitive in the world. However, SRON is continuously looking for new ways to deploy even more sensitive sensors for the improved detection of cosmic radiation or for measurements of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets. This requires long-term investments in the development of new sensors, electronics and specialist techniques. In the near future detectors shall increasingly take the shape of large chips with many megapixels, with a unique combination of two dimensional pictures and spectroscopy color resolving power.
These detectors require the development of new advanced electronics, smart control software, extreme cooling techniques and novel materials. SRON develops a new generation of detectors, and the necessary read-out and control electronics, for international missions in the submillimeter and far-infrared areas. For example, such extremely sensitive detectors are needed in SPICA/ SAFARI so that we can learn more about protoplanetary discs and the formation of planets. For SPICA/ SAFARI SRON is currently working on Transition Edge Sensors (TES).
Customers are on the one hand the international organizations with which SRON cooperates in bilateral, European or global projects. On the other hand, there is science as the customer: scientists from the Universities in Utrecht, Groningen and Leiden, and outside the Dutch borders for example with DLR.
Johannes Alphonsus Marie "Johan" Bleeker is a Dutch space technology scientist. He was director of the Netherlands Institute for Space Research from 1983 to 2003. He was involved in the setting up of the Horizon 2000 and Horizon 2000+ projects of the European Space Agency.
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Envisat is a large inactive Earth-observing satellite which is still in orbit. Operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), it was the world's largest civilian Earth observation satellite.
Phobos 2 was the last space probe designed by the Soviet Union. It was designed to explore the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. It was launched on 12 July 1988, and entered orbit on 29 January 1989.
The Herschel Space Observatory was a space observatory built and operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). It was active from 2009 to 2013, and was the largest infrared telescope ever launched, carrying a 3.5-metre (11.5 ft) mirror and instruments sensitive to the far infrared and submillimetre wavebands (55–672 µm). Herschel was the fourth and final cornerstone mission in the Horizon 2000 programme, following SOHO/Cluster II, XMM-Newton and Rosetta. NASA is a partner in the Herschel mission, with US participants contributing to the mission; providing mission-enabling instrument technology and sponsoring the NASA Herschel Science Center (NHSC) at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center and the Herschel Data Search at the Infrared Science Archive.
INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) is a currently operational space telescope for observing gamma rays. It was launched by the European Space Agency into Earth orbit in 2002, and is designed to detect some of the most energetic radiation that comes from space. It was the most sensitive gamma ray observatory in space before NASA's Fermi was launched in 2008.
The gamma-ray burst coordinates network (GCN) is a system that distributes information about the location of a gamma-ray burst (GRB), called notices, when a burst is detected by various spacecraft. The GCN also automatically receives and distributes messages, called circulars, about follow-up observations to interested individuals and institutions. Follow-up observations may be made by ground-based and space-based optical, radio, and X-ray observatories.
SCIAMACHY was one of ten instruments aboard of ESA's ENVIronmental SATellite, ENVISAT. It was a satellite spectrometer designed to measure sunlight, transmitted, reflected and scattered by the earth's atmosphere or surface in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared wavelength region at moderate spectral resolution .. SCIAMACHY was built by Netherlands and Germany at TNO/TPD, SRON and Dutch Space.
The Russian Space Research Institute is the leading organization of the Russian Academy of Sciences on space exploration to benefit fundamental science. It was formerly known as the Space Research Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
Cosmic Vision is a European Space Agency (ESA) long-term space science missions programme spanning between years 2015 and 2025, a successor to the Horizon 2000 long-term scientific programme.
The Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA), initially called HII-L2 after the launch vehicle and orbit, is a proposed infrared space telescope, follow-on to the successful Akari space observatory. It is a collaboration between European and Japanese scientists, which was selected in May 2018 by the European Space Agency (ESA) as a finalist for the next Medium class Mission 5 of the Cosmic Vision programme. Its sensitivity would be more than two orders of magnitude over both Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes.
The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) is a proposed ESA space mission originally slated to launch around 2022, and now proposed to launch around 2025. The mission will be devoted to the study of neutron stars, black holes and other compact objects by means of their very rapid X-ray variability. LOFT is supported by a large international collaboration, led by researchers spread over most of the European countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, and with contributions from Brazil, Canada, Israel, United States and Turkey. SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research acts as principal investigator.
The SAFARI imaging spectrometer is the European ‘nerve center’ of Japanese infrared telescope SPICA and is being developed under the leadership of SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research. SAFARI is an infrared camera with about 6,000 pixels that can make real ‘photos’ of the sky in three adjacent wavelength areas. Using a Fourier transform spectroscopy (FTS) detailed spectral information is obtained, allowing astronomers to determine the chemical composition of the observed celestial sources. TNO is developing the mechanism of this FTS.
Sentinel-5 Precursor (Sentinel-5P) is an Earth observation satellite developed by ESA as part of the Copernicus Programme to close the gap in continuity of observations between Envisat and Sentinel-5.
Transient High-Energy Sky and Early Universe Surveyor (THESEUS) is a space telescope mission proposal by the European Space Agency that would study gamma-ray bursts and X-rays for investigating the early universe. If developed, the mission would investigate star formation rates and metallicity evolution, as well as studying the sources and physics of reionization.