ATHENA Radiation Environment Models and X-Ray Background Effects Simulators

2016-03-22 11:48 by Petteri Nieminen

Development of a simulator for radiation effects on the ESA L-Class ATHENA mission

A new R&D activity has been kicked off on 21 March 2016, which aims to develop a comprehensive software simulator for the radiation background effects seen by the ESA L-Class science mission ATHENA. As part of the study, new models of the L2 low-energy radiation environment will also be developed, and updates to the relevant Geant4 physics treating the propagation of radiation through the ATHENA optics and spacecraft structures will be provided.

X-ray missions such as ATHENA will encounter on top of their scientific observations also an unwanted background caused by the charged particle radiation environment in space. With the specific technologies and instruments used in ATHENA, there are two main sources of such background. On of these is due to low-energy protons and ions propagated in shallow angles through the instrument optics, while the other is caused by high-energy galactic cosmic rays impinging on the spacecraft structures. Both of these posisble sources will be included in the simulator.

The orbit chosen for the ATHENA mission, a halo orbit around the Lagrangian L2 point 1.5 million km from the Earth in the direction away from the Sun, is becoming increasingly popular for various science missions. However the radiation environment of L2 is thus far relatively poorly modelled. One part of the present activity is to analyse available data from earlier interplanetary missions and to develop new models for this environment.   
 
This study is being undertaken by INAF (I) in partnership with IRAP (F), NOA(G), SWHARD (I), RadMod Research (UK), Kallisto Consultancy (UK), CEA (F), INTA (E), SRON (NL) and MPE (D).

This activity is supported by ESA's Science Core Technology Programme (CTP). ESA Contract No. 4000116655/16/NL/BW.

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