Latest news

08-04-2020 - TEASER: Discover the heart of the X-IFU

The X-IFU team has been working on a brand new video and we have a great teaser to share with you. In May 2020, discover the heart of the X-IFU on our YouTube channel!


16-01-2020 - The X-IFU Gazette #13 has been released!

The 13th issue of the X-IFU Gazette has been released!

After all the exceptional achievements of 2019, it is now time to start this new year with the same determination and look forward to many more successes.

To open this first newsletter of 2020, Gregor Rauw, from the University of Liège, will deliver the latest information about our next X-IFU Consortium Meeting and especially about our host for the week, the Belgian city of Liège. We take this opportunity to remind you that registration is mandatory to attend the meeting.

Our Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, and Project Manager, Vincent Albouys, will give us some insights into two important reviews that took place at the end of last year: Athena's Mission Formulation Review and the Critical Design Review of the Detector cooling system. Didier will also briefly describe the excellent outcome of ESA’s Council at Ministerial level.

Then, Gregor, as X-IFU Science Co-Investigator and Belgian representative in the X-IFU Consortium Board, will give us an overview of the Belgian contribution to the instrument and their expertise in the X-ray field. As is customary in this newsletter, he will also take part in the exercise of summarizing his own career.

Following the commitments taken in 2019 to reduce the environmental impact of the consortium, Didier will highlight the growing support in the scientific community for such initiatives and introduce his travel footprint calculator.

Lastly, our colleagues from the Centre Spatial de Liège kept their promise and will present the brand new X-IFU beers.

Happy reading!

21-12-2019 - Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

To celebrate the end of this year, please find below a message from our Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, and our Project Manager, Vincent Albouys:


Dear colleagues and friends,

Here is the time again to wrap up another year of the life of our beautiful X-IFU project. 2019 was clearly very important for X-IFU, after the successful Instrument Preliminary Requirement Review in April and the successful Athena Mission Formulation Review earlier in November. Athena is now on a safe path towards mission adoption. It was only one year ago that the X-IFU consortium was formally appointed by ESA, and its organization also successfully passed through those two reviews.

As we are cruising into phase B, priorities are also set for ramping up the technology demonstration activities (e.g. the Detector Cooling System), consolidating the interfaces of the X-IFU with the science instrument module, freezing the instrument performance requirements. All of this is required for the writing of the red book in support of the mission adoption, scheduled for November 2021, prior to which the Instrument System Requirement Review is expected to take place at the beginning of 2021.

And of course, in 2020, we shall all embark on a mission to reduce the carbon footprint of X-IFU related activities by at least a factor of 2, with a goal of reducing it by 4.

So, may 2020 be as successful as was 2019.

On behalf of the X-IFU Consortium, we wish you happy holidays and a happy New Year!

Best regards,
Didier and Vincent


17-10-2019 - The X-IFU Gazette #12 has been released!

The 12th issue of the X-IFU Gazette has been released!

For this issue, our contributors from IRAP, CNES and the University of Geneva have prepared some great articles about the latest updates on the instrument, its sub-systems and the consortium.

You will find below the table of content:

  1. Editorial
  2. A successful CM10 in Toulouse
  3. What is PaCSXI2?
  4. Interfaces: The core of system engineering
  5. Microvibration – Macroscopic approach
  6. CM11: April 6th to 10th in Liège
  7. Key measures to reduce our travel footprint
  8. The Swiss contribution to Athena X-IFU
  9. Bio: Stéphane Paltani

23-09-2019 - The X-IFU Consortium meeting #10

The 10th X-IFU Consortium Meeting was hosted by IRAP in Toulouse from Monday 16th to Friday 20th of September. Participants met during various splinters and all together for the two days of plenary sessions. The programme was rich in topics related to activities triggered by the Instrument Preliminary Requirement Review (IPRR), which was held and concluded positively before the summer. Overall, it was agreed that the level of definition of all corners of the instrument keeps raising. Additionally, this was the first consortium meeting led by the recently appointed Project Manager from CNES, Vincent Albouys.

An important upcoming activity for the project is the Mission formulation Review (MFR) which will be carried out over the next months by the European Space Agency. The instrument itself will not be under review as the objective of the MFR is mainly to confirm the feasibility of Athena. It will be concluded by a board meeting scheduled for November 12th.

Of great significance, the X-IFU Consortium board agreed to reduce the number of physical meetings and optimize each of them in order to lower by at least a half the travel footprint of the project. From now on, we will move to only one consortium meeting a year, together with two meetings of the X-IFU project managers. This proposal was introduced by the Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, who provided members of the Consortium with a tool to estimate their own travel footprint and raise their awareness on their own environmental impact.

On a lighter note, the whole consortium got to enjoy the X-IFU Cuvée “A la Thien” which was selected by our very own X-IFU wine selection committee to celebrate the successful IPRR of the project.

Thanks to the hard work put in by the entire consortium, the X-IFU is on the path to its next milestone, the Mission Adoption Review, which will be preceded by the System Requirement Review. The next X-IFU Consortium meeting will be held in April 2020, jointly hosted by the Centre Spatial de Liège and the University of Liège in Belgium.

X-IFU Consortium Meeting #10

28-05-2019 - The X-IFU Gazette #11 is online!

The 11th issue of the X-IFU Gazette has been released!

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


12-04-2019 - Instrument Preliminary Requirement Review : SUCCESSFUL!

The Instrument Preliminary Requirement Review of the X-IFU has been declared successful by the joint ESA and CNES review Board, yesterday on April the 11th.
Over 4 months, through different steps, the X-IFU has been evaluated by a panel formed by ESA and CNES senior experts. The consortium members have been compiling over 5000 pages of documentation in support of the review. They had to provide answers to the so-called review item discrepancies. The project team agreed on the actions to be pursued towards the next milestone of Athena, being the Mission Formulation Review. 

After 4 years of phase A,  the X-IFU team can be proud to move into the second phase of the project development ! The phase B, the preliminary design phase will start now, and is expected to end in late 2021, in time for the Athena Mission Adoption Review.

Congratulations to the whole X-IFU team for this outstanding achievement!

21-01-2019 - New appointments within the consortium

Jiri Svoboda from the Astronomical Institute (Czech Academy of Science) has been appointed board member, and Jan Soucek from the Institute of Atmospherics Physics (Czech Academy of Science) appointed Instrument Co-Investigator. This is the first step of the formal entry process of Czech Republic in the consortium.

On the Finnish side, following the completion of the ICC, Seppo Korpela from the University of Helsinky have been appointed Instrument Co-Investigator.

The formalisation of the Finnish and Czech contributions in Athena X-IFU marks a new step, an official recognition for the teams working on the project.

21-12-2018 - Merry christmas and happy new year!

2019 X-IFU

Time has come to close 2018. This has been another very important year for X-IFU with the formal appointment of the X-IFU Consortium by ESA. Most, if not all activities have focussed on the preparation of the upcoming IPRR, and many significant progresses have been achieved in all corners of the instrument (technology, design…). All this is now being documented in the IPPR data pack which already counts over 4000 pages, split in more than 100 documents, demonstrating the breadth and extent of the work done.

2019 promises to be important as well, with the IPRR followed soon after by the MFR. Let us hope that everything goes smoothly, but we have all reasons to be proud as we have an X-IFU entering the IPRR with performance comparable to or in some areas exceeding the ones that were promised to the community back at the time of the Athena mission proposal. Thanks so much to Thien and the whole CNES team for leading the project, and thanks to all the consortium partners for their dedication and unfailing support to the project. 

I do hope that you will have some rest during the Christmas break and let me wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy new year !
Thanks and all the best,

Didier Barret

Principal Investigator

PS: Thanks to Morgane for the X-IFU new year card with a simulated X-IFU cluster observation in the background (courtesy of E. Cucchetti et al.)