Japan’s Lunar Sniper X-ray satellite is ready for launch

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A revolutionary satellite that will shed new light on celestial objects and a lunar sniper is expected to lift off on Sunday evening.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s launch, which has already been postponed twice due to bad weather, will take place on an H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center at 8:26 p.m. Sunday. ET or Monday at 9:26 a.m. Japan Standard Time.

The event will be broadcast live JAXA YouTube Channel, offering streaming in English and Japanese. The live broadcast will begin at 7:55 PM ET on Sunday.

XRISM satellite (pronounced “crism”), also called X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Missionis a joint JAXA-NASA mission involving the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Along with the ride is the JAXA SLIM or Smart lander to explore the moon. This small-scale reconnaissance lander is designed to demonstrate a “spot” landing at a location 100 meters (328 feet) away, rather than the usual kilometers, using high-precision landing technology. Due to the accuracy, the mission was nicknamed Lunar Sniper.

According to NASA, the satellite and its two instruments will observe the hottest regions of the Universe, the largest structures and objects with the highest gravity. XRISM will detect X-ray light, a wavelength that humans cannot see.

The study of exploding stars and black holes

X-rays are emitted by some of the most energetic objects and events in the universe, and astronomers want to study them.

“Some of the things we hope to study with XRISM are the consequences of starbursts and near-light-speed jets of particles launched by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies,” said Richard Kelley, XRISM principal investigator at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. “But of course, we are most excited about all the unexpected phenomena that XRISM will discover as it observes our space.”

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

An artist’s rendering shows what XRISM will look like once it’s in orbit.

Compared to other wavelengths of light, X-rays are so short that they pass through dish-shaped mirrors that observe and collect visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light, such as the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes.

With this in mind, XRISM has thousands of curved individual nested mirrors better suited to detecting X-rays. Once in orbit, the satellite will have to calibrate for several months. The mission is scheduled to operate for three years.

According to NASA, the satellite can detect X-rays with energies ranging from 400 to 12,000 electron volts, far exceeding the energy of visible light at 2 to 3 electron volts. This detection range will enable the study of cosmic extremes throughout the universe.

Taylor Mickal/NASA

XRISM has two special mirror arrays for X-ray detection.

The satellite has two instruments called Resolve and Xtend. Resolve tracks small shifts in temperature that help determine the source, composition, movement and physical state of the X-rays. Resolve operates at minus 459.58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273.10 degrees Celsius), approx. 50 times colder than the deepthanks to a refrigerator-sized container of liquid helium.

The instrument will help astronomers unravel cosmic mysteries, such as the chemical details of the glowing hot gas inside galaxy clusters.

“XRISM’s Resolve instrument will allow us to look at the composition of cosmic X-ray sources in ways not previously possible,” Kelley said. “We expect many new insights into the hottest objects in the universe, including exploding stars, black holes and the galaxies and clusters they feed on.”

Meanwhile, Xtend will give XRISM one of the largest fields of view on an X-ray satellite.

“The spectra collected by XRISM will be the most detailed we’ve ever seen for some of the phenomena we’ll be observing,” said Brian Williams, NASA’s XRISM project scientist at Goddard. “The mission will give us insights into some of the most difficult places to study, such as the inner structures of neutron stars and the jets of near-light-speed particles fed by black holes in active galaxies.”

Meanwhile, SLIM will use its propulsion system to move toward the moon. The spacecraft will enter lunar orbit about three to four months after launch, orbit the moon for one month, and begin descent and attempt a soft landing four to six months after launch. If the landing is successful, the technology demonstration will also include a brief exploration of the lunar surface.

Unlike other recent landing missions aimed at the Moon’s south pole, SLIM is targeting a site near a small lunar crater called Shioli, near the Sea of ​​Nectar, where it will study the composition of rocks that may help scientists unravel their origins. of the moon The landing site is just south of the Sea of ​​Tranquility, where Apollo 11 landed near the lunar equator in 1969.


A flight model of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon can be seen at the Tanegashima Space Center.

After the United States, the former Soviet Union and China, India became the fourth country to achieve a controlled landing on the moon when The Chandrayaan-3 mission arrived on Wednesday near the south pole of the Moon. Earlier, Japanese company Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander fell 3 miles (4.8 kilometers). hits the moon while attempting to land in April.

The SLIM probe has vision-based navigation technology. A precision landing on the Moon is a primary goal of JAXA and other space agencies.

Resource-rich areas such as the South Pole of the Moon and its permanently shaded regions filled with water ice, also poses a risk due to craters and rocks. Future missions will need to be able to land in a narrow area to avoid these features.

SLIM also has a lightweight design that could favor agencies planning more frequent missions and exploring moons around other planets, such as Mars. If SLIM is successful, JAXA says, it will change missions from “landing where we can to landing where we want.”

Godfrey Kemp

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