ESA Science Core Technology Development Success Story - First Proton Diverter Developed for the Space Sector [Aug/2022]
The spacecraft of ESA’s ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics) will be exposed to a considerable flux of charged particles due to the mission’s large Halo orbit in L1. Indeed, the protons in solar winds are in the energy range of X-rays, which is the spectrum of focus for the telescope. These protons are thus expected to cause background interference with the scientific measurements from state-of-the-art instruments on board. One of the key projects funded under the Science Core Technology Programme (CTP) to mitigate these interferences is the development of a set of charged particle diverters.
This technology development demonstration project has been undertaken by a Czech industry-academia consortium. It is led by Frentech Aerospace, an industrial equipment supplier, who acts as the manufacturer. It also includes Brno University of Technology (BUT), one of the Czech Republic’s leading research institutions, which is in charge of the magnetic design of the diverter, and L.K. Engineering (LKE), which specialises in technical calculations for mechanical engineering, and is tasked with the mechanical and structural design of the diverter.
A key benefit for the consortium members involved in the project has been the development of new skills and capabilities needed to address the implementation of a technologically-complex solution. The participation of Czech organisations in the consortium developing a charged particle diverter for ATHENA was an opportunity for the country to be involved in a high profile, boundary-pushing flagship ESA Science mission from phase A to flight model. Having Czech entities responsible for the development of a high-tech component of ATHENA is particularly beneficial in increasing the value-added to the national economy from its space domain.
Working on ATHENA’s charged particle diverter provides critical early-career exposure to young professionals, which equips them with key expertise and project management skills. This can be applied throughout their careers, ensuring skills sustainability in the Czech space supply chain. Working towards the sustainability and strengthening of skills and capabilities is central to growing the Czech space sector.
The work undertaken by the consortium on ATHENA’s charged particle diverter and the benefits outlined throughout the report contribute to achieving the Czech Republic’s National Space lan. Key national strategic objectives include:
- To have an international image of industrial and scientific excellence;
- To be a high value-added economy;
- To be competitive and innovative;
- To be capable of absorbing and retaining the intellectual capital created; and
- To be an example of an excellent complementarity and cooperation between industrial and academic tissues
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This initiative is led by ESA’s Science Core Technology Programme. More information can be accessed at ESA - Science Core Technology Programme (CTP).