On Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be launching their sixth satellite dedicated to X-ray astronomy, ASTRO-H, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan. The launch is scheduled at 3:45 a.m. EST.
The observatory carries a state-of-the-art instrument and two telescope mirrors built at Goddard Space Flight Center. That instrument is the Soft X-ray Spectrometer which is able to detect individual low-energy x-ray photons. The SXS detector is cooled to 0.05 degrees above absolute zero, and to keep system noise within useful limits, the operating temperature is held constant ±0.000001 degrees. I was the analog electronics engineer for the team that designed the temperature control system for the SXS.
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Image Credit: JAXA
UPDATE—JAXA has announced that the ASTRO-H launch has been postponed because of high winds at the launch facility. The next possible launch date is on Sunday.