This issue of the X-IFU newsletter will come back to the Instrument Preliminary Requirement Review (IPRR), which the X-IFU successfully completed on April 11th, with the joint ESA-CNES review board meeting held at ESTEC. This success has been a major achievement by the team, but now, time has come to take on the actions identified by the review panel. Thien Lam-Trong will come back with his take on the actions to be carried out. At the end of the day, this is the tax-payer money which enables us to fund the ambitious project that X-IFU is. This is why we need to explain to our citizens what the X-IFU is, which unique science it will address, what it is all about. A short movie introducing the X-IFU has just been released on the social network world wide, together with a press release announcing the success of the IPRR. Morgane Hébert will present the overall approach followed in the X-IFU movie. To close up the IPRR process, the 9th Consortium meeting was held in Grenoble between April 15th and 18th: I will summarize the main outcome of the meeting in my article later. As of May 13th, Vincent Albouys was appointed as the new X-IFU Project Manager. I wish a warm welcome to Vincent, who will introduce himself in this issue. We are now actively preparing the X-IFU 2019 Cuvée. I will provide you with some information in this newsletter. Finally, the X-IFU relies on a strong contribution from our NASA colleagues. Rich Kelley will present the overall US contribution to X-IFU, and introduce himself at the end of the newsletter. 

Didier Barret
X-IFU Principal investigator

The IPRR Actions
As an outcome of the review, approximately 90 action items have been assigned to the X-IFU Consortium. A large majority of them may be considered as normal work for phase B. However we got 20% of them which are major and to be addressed shortly in view of the next coming Mission Formulation Review (which may be considered as the System-PRR). At first sight, these major action items are focused on two subjects which are the management (risks & schedule) and the cryogenic chain.

Looking into the subjects in order to have a big picture, we have some lessons to learn. Concerning the management issues, one is the schedule and the reasons why it is already perceived as tight twelve years before the launch should be better analyzed and understood. The other one is on the communication channels which should be clearly improved. Concerning, the technical issues, the major topics were expected: the cryogenic chain, micro-vibrations and EMI/EMC. But what was not expected is the fact that the detection and readout topic was not really assessed by the review while we all know how much they are technically critical for the feasibility of the Athena mission. In conclusion, the major action items must be addressed in priority in the perspective of the MFR and those which are more "normal work" oriented must be managed in the normal process of the phase B.

Thien Lam Trong
X-IFU Project manager during phase A



The new Project Manager : Vincent Albouys
Dear Colleagues,

Since May 13, I’ve integrated the X-IFU Team as CNES X-IFU Project Manager. I‘m replacing Thien Lam Trong who is called to other duties within CNES. I’m honored to be part of this community and will put all my efforts to ensure continuity to this successful story. Thanks again to Thien for bringing the Project to that level and to a successful IPRR.

Before being in charge of the X-IFU Project Management, I worked during almost 10 years as CNES Project System Manager of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography CNES/NASA Project (SWOT). During that time, I was in charge of the CNES system definition activities, and was also responsible for activities coordination with NASA, interacting with NASA/JPL Project Systems Engineering Team.

My background is Mechanics, I got my MS in Mechanical Engineering in 1996 from Ecole Centrale de Nantes, France. My career started at CNES in 1997 when I worked as mechanical engineer. I held the position as Mechanical and Thermal System Engineer on the CNES high resolution optical satellite PLEIADES from 2001 to 2007. After graduating in 2008 from the international Master’s Degree program in System and Business Engineering (Spacetech-10, faculty of Aerospace Engineering of the Delft University of Technology) I joined the CNES pre-phase A department and led several Phase 0 studies with international partners like NASA and Brazilian INPE for Earth Observation programs. I moved then to CNES altimetry department in 2010 to act as SWOT Project System Manager.
It really gives me a great pride to join the Athena X-IFU community and to act as Project Manager for this remarkable Instrument. I’m sure the next coming years will be extremely fruitful both technically and on a human level, which makes this experience really exciting.
Hope to have a chance to meet you soon at the next consortium meeting!

Vincent Albouys

X-IFU Project Manager
A great consortium meeting #9 in Grenoble

The 9th consortium meeting was held in Grenoble from April 15th to 18th, hosted by CEA-SBT, under the leadership of Lionel Duband. As it could have been anticipated, the meeting was extremely well organized up to the social dinner, which provided the attendees with the greatest possible views of Grenoble and its surroundings by night. Thank you Lionel for leading the effort on behalf of the host institution. 

The meeting was focused on presenting broadly the outcome of the IPRR, emphasizing on the actions to be carried out in the next few months. The meeting started on Monday with XSAT, XCAT, and IPRR action splinter meetings. It is worth noting that during the XSAT, several simulations of X-IFU related science cases were presented, highlighting the unique capabilities of the instrument. The XSAT will now be moved to science-oriented activities, aiming at developing and promoting the X-IFU science.

The plenary sessions covered from Tuesday to Wednesday. Alex Stefanescu from the ESA study team presented the plan of the upcoming activities. I cannot resist to quote Alex from his presentation, extracting a couple of statements from the minutes of the IPRR board meeting: “The Board agrees to close the review, all objectives are achieved with actions, and a feasible baseline for X-IFU has been achieved; this is a big step forward. The Board expressed thanks for the work that has been done thus far. It should be remembered that the system is very complex and ambitious, but ATHENA is L-class so this is to be expected. CNES is fully committed to the success of this mission, particular in their provision of X-IFU.” I couldn’t agree more to say that Athena wouldn’t fly without an ambitious X-IFU, and that is why I am so glad that we presented the X-IFU to the IPRR panel, with its original performance requirements met, including the spectral resolution, the field of view, the count rate capability…

The whole Consortium meeting plenary sessions were then devoted to go through the various constituents of the instrument, its subsystems, emphasizing on the issues raised by the IPRR.  Thien will come back to these in this issue of the newletter.

Graziella Branduardi-Raymont gave a science talk, demonstrating that not only X-IFU is capable at looking at the most distant objects in the Universe, but will also deliver breakthrough science on our neighbors in the solar system (e.g. to probe global magnetospheric and auroral dynamics, the interaction between planets and the Solar win, planet atmospheres, planet and satellite surface compositions). Similarly, Paul Callanan, gave an overview presentation of the work done so far by the three Irish PhD students (S. Bouanane, S. McKeague, S. Walsh), funded by PRODEX at the University College Cork, University College Dublin and Dublin City University who are working on X-IFU science simulations. Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez in her presentation demonstrated how much improved theoretical calculations, laboratory measurements and atomic database improvements will be required to fully exploit the X-IFU high spectral resolution X-ray data. Gabriele is participating to a worldwide effort to join forces to prepare, first for XRISM Resolve, and later for the X-IFU. Together with the calibration of the instrument, this is indeed a key to the success of the X-IFU.

Finally, one of the highlights of the meeting was certainly the release to the X-IFU consortium of the first version of a short movie introducing the X-IFU (see article by Morgane Hébert who coordinated the production of the movie). The movie was very well received, being perceived as something that is very much needed for accessing to broader audience.

Additional splinters took place on Thursday (system team, X-ISC management team). In the Consortium board meeting, the status of the activities was reviewed for each country. Noticeably, it was the first Consortium Board meeting attended by Jiri Svoboda for Czech Republic. Welcome Jiri ! Two actions arose from the meeting: one was to get an X-IFU lead funding agency meeting organized to make our funding authorities aware of the need to fund several key and expensive activities before the adoption of Athena. The second action, unanimously endorsed by the XCOB, was to look at an alternative “potentially a game changer” design for the cryogenic chain architecture based on a multi-stage ADR. This action will be carried by a joint NASA and JAXA team, with technical inputs provided by the CNES/CEA-SBT team. Letting on the side the programmatic aspect, the outcome of this action will be a technical input to the cryogenic chain working group, that is being set-up following the IPRR.

As a final word, CM#9 will also be remembered as the final Consortium Meeting with Thien Lam Trong, acting in the capacity of the CNES X-IFU Project Manager. Thien has been key in the success of the IPRR, and on behalf of the X-IFU, I would like to express my most profound gratitude for all the work that he led to bring us to success, without any impact on the science performance of the instrument. Thank you Thien, and good luck for the rest of your career at CNES.

Didier Barret
X-IFU Principal Investigator


X-IFU, the film !

The X-IFU is a complex instrument, and it is not always easy to explain to a non-professional audience the way it works and why we are building it.

And yet the world needs to know that this fabulous instrument is being built ! So we decided to make a film that could be used for public outreach, a film explaining as simply as possible the Athena mission and its X-IFU.

We have been collaborating with an amazing graphic design lab, Studio Fab&Fab, to produce the film that you you should have seen by now. Lots of iterations with Didier and the IRAP team to finally get this result, that we hope you will like and use.

Public outreach is something important. First of all because scientific research has to be spread, and the work you are doing today will lead to great discoveries about the hot and energetic Universe. Second, because the first contributors to the X-IFU are the European, Japanese and American citizens, as the project is funded by public money, and developped by public instititutions. 

In order to do so, thanks to a very responsive translation team, we translated the film in 8 different languages (English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, German, Polish, Czech), to enable citizens from countries contributing to the X-IFU to understand the ultimate goal of this instrument being to unveil the secrets of the hot and energetic Universe.

We invite you to share widely this film, feel free to embed it on all the web pages speaking about the X-IFU and to broadcast it as broadly as possible. This is your new tool to explain simply what the X-IFU is about.

To discover the film, click on the link: X-IFU, unveiling the secrets of the hot and energetic Universe

Morgane Hébert
X-IFU support office and communication manager  

The American contribution to the X-IFU

NASA is pleased to be contributing the focal plane array for the ATHENA X-IFU instrument. This will be a transition edge sensor (TES) X-ray calorimeter array. X-ray calorimeter technology is ideally suited for an X-ray integral field unit because of the extremely high spectral resolution possible over a broad range of energies (0.1-12 keV), with pixels sized to match high-resolution X-ray optics. The X-ray calorimeter concept is very simple in principle, wherein the energy of an individual X-ray photon raises the temperature of an extremely sensitive temperature transducer attached to an absorbing element that is partially thermally isolated from its surroundings. In the case of TESs, the transducer is a superconductor electrically biased to operate within the superconducting transition between the normal and superconducting states. The transition temperature is engineered to be just below 0.1 K and the transition width is extremely narrow, less than 0.001 K. Such a low temperature is required to reduce thermal fluctuation noise while the narrow transition provides a very high change in both electrical resistance and current with temperature; together these produce extremely high signal-to-noise on the measurement of the energy of each X-ray photon detected. The array being designed at NASA for the X-IFU will have an energy resolution of ~ 2 eV (defined as the full-width at half-maximum of the response to monochromatic X-rays) with pixel sizes chosen to meet the required spatial resolution and field of view of 5 arcmin. The array will consist of 3168 275-micron pixels, corresponding to 4.7 arcsec in the focal plane. The absorber thickness is chosen to enable an energy resolution of better than 2 eV up through 7 keV with high detection efficiency.

The X-ray astronomy group at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center has been working on developing X-ray calorimeter technology since the early 1980’s, and embarked on a collaboration with the group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the mid 1990’s, following the work of Kent Irwin on the advantages of TES X-ray calorimeters.

The NASA team is working very closely with the X-ray group at SRON, who are responsible for the overall focal plane assembly (FPA). We are carrying out the necessary research and development necessary to optimally match the parameters of the array to the readout electronics of the FPA.

Richard Kelley
X-IFU Co-Investigator
US representative in the X-IFU Consortium Board

Bio: Richard Kelley

Richard Kelley started work in X-ray astronomy as a graduate student at MIT in 1977 before moving to the Goddard Space Flight Center in 1983, focusing initially on binary X-ray pulsars. A year after arriving at Goddard he began working on the development of X-ray calorimeters for the AXAF (now Chandra) mission. He has contributed to the steady improvement in energy resolution of these devices from ~140 eV at that time to 1 eV today, and the development of these devices into state-of-the-art arrays for space flight applications. This sensor technology has been used most recently on the ASTRO-H (Hitomi) satellite with the measurement of the velocity structure of the Perseus cluster of galaxies. As an X-IFU consortium board member, he is leading the collaboration between NASA and CNES. He has received NASA medals for Outstanding Leadership and Exceptional Scientific Achievement, served as a member of the National Research Council Astro 2010 Decadal Survey Study Group on international partnerships, and was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2016.

Orders for the Cuvée X-IFU
By special appointment, an X-IFU wine selection committee was set-up and met on April 4th, 2019. Its term of reference included the unique task of selecting the wine for the X-IFU Cuvée 2019. The choice had to be done between six different high quality wines, all coming from the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The tasting conditions were excellent, with some background information provided by our seller: Jérôme Jaune (www.vineoc.com). Each of the tasters had to give feedback and to justify the statements made. For some wines, there were some significant differences of appreciations, which by themselves eliminated the wine. There was however one wine on which the consensus was quickly achieved and this is the one which we will make the X-IFU cuvée 2019. It is a red Cabardès, called Clos des Natices, from the Domaine Galy. Cabardès is a small wine producing region, located north west of Carcassonne, a bit more than one hour driving from Toulouse.

From my own perspective, the wine we selected for you is outstanding in many respects: by its wealth and diversity of tastes (vanilla, preserved fruits…), its overall complexity and sophistication and its second length in the mouth. It fits perfectly the ambition of the X-IFU: powerful, sophisticated and complex. It is made of 60% of Syrah and 40% of Cabernet Franc. Depending on your storage conditions, you should be able to keep it for up to 5 years, but do not worry too much about this, you can drink it before and it will be fine too.

The X-IFU 2019 wine celebrates the formal appointment of the X-IFU consortium by ESA in December last year, the successful instrument preliminary requirement review completed in April, and the retirement of Thien Lam Trong as the X-IFU CNES project manager in May. This is more than enough to justify an X-IFU cuvée. It will be called A la Thien.

We are now setting up the logistics to be able to ship, at the lowest prices, the X-IFU wine all across the consortium (in 13 different countries). This will require some coordination on your side, as it is a major cost saving to you, if we can group the shipping (please contact Morgane or me if you have any questions). At the time of this writing, the bottle is being customized, and next month, the wine will be bottled. Based on the preliminary survey on your interest in getting the wine, 1200 bottles have been ordered. The price of one bottle will be around 9€ (+/-0.5€). Please do not limit yourselves when ordering: we have some margins, and I am not sure I will be able to absorb all the margins, if I don't get help from you.

As you well know, wine must be taken seriously within the X-IFU consortium. I truly believe that the wine we have selected meets the most stringent requirement we could have set, but still I am really anxious to hear about your feedback. Thanks for ordering !

A form has been set-up. Please consider that when you fill it, it is a commitment from you to order and pay. No show will be not be accepted. You will be able to pay directly to the seller, but this will come later. Please understand that the whole process is rather heavy, so your support will be grealty appreciated.

Registration form to order bottles of the X-IFU special cuvée
Yours  !

Didier Barret
X-IFU Principal Investigator
Chair of the X-IFU wine selection committee

X-IFU Consortium
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