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The Falcon 9 rocket will carry a detector of the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague into orbit on Thursday, 13 January 2022

On Thursday, 13 January 2022, a second detector developed and manufactured by scientists from the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering of the CTU in Prague (FNSPE) in cooperation with esc Aerospace will enter Earth orbit. The unique 2SD particle detector will map so-called space weather and ionizing radiation in orbit. It will be carried there by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in the US.

detektor SXRM-1800"This is the second generation of our detector. The first one was carried into orbit by a Russian Soyuz rocket on July 5, 2019. The second detector can do a bit more, because in addition to measuring the number of particles and identifying them individually, it can also determine their direction of flight and their energy. The device also includes a second detector for detecting photons of so-called soft X-rays," says Michal Marčišovský from the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Physics (FJFI) and head of the Centre of Applied Physics and Advanced Detection Systems (CAPADS) laboratory, which is developing the detectors. "However, the first detector is still operational and the data from it will help us get a better picture of space weather and ionizing radiation in orbit, which is the main goal of our work," adds Michal Marčišovský.

Space X-startThe new generation of the detector will also focus on the study of space weather and ionizing radiation in orbit. This will help protect space infrastructure and human crew from cosmic radiation. By detecting dangerous levels of radiation early on that could damage equipment or endanger astronauts, measures can be taken to limit the risks – for example, the satellite can be rotated to expose its most protected part to radiation, or sensitive equipment can be turned off for a given time. The data from our detector will make it possible to protect very expensive instruments and thus substantially extend their lifespan. It is therefore to be expected that this data will be of interest to the operators of orbiting facilities.

The first FNSPE detectors in space are primarily used to verify their functionality in the space environment and to cross-calibrate with existing data. CAPADS scientists have used their experience in design, operation, and data acquisition to further improve the parameters and develop a more advanced detector called the SpacepiX Radiation Monitor (SXRM). This still retains the minimum size, weight, and electrical power – variables that are extremely valuable for orbiting devices – and allows much more detailed radiation field data to be obtained than existing comparable detection technologies. In fact, instead of having a single detection chip to track the passage of particles, it has five, so that it can determine not only the number and type of particles, but also their energy and direction of arrival.

detektor SXRM-2-1800The SXRM detector (part of the 2SD facility) is based on the revolutionary SpacePix2 monolithic pixel detector developed by FNSPE. It is designed to operate for at least 15 years in environments in different Earth orbits. The small size and low power requirements allow the detector to be easily placed on almost any satellite. In fact, the more detectors in orbit that monitor the space environment, the more accurately the space environment can be modelled.

In addition to the SXRM detector, the SXM detector (Soft X-ray Monitor, also part of 2SD) will be carried into orbit to measure the flux of soft X-ray photons, which are most often emitted during solar flares. These eruptions can cause so-called solar storms, which have the potential to damage not only sensitive electronic equipment in orbit, but also entire power grids on the Earth's surface in a major event. An example of their weaker impact on the Earth's surface is the aurora borealis at lower latitudes. Although the cost of putting equipment into space has fallen sharply in the last 20 years, it is still relatively high. But the cost of the devices themselves in orbit is even higher. On top of that, the number of these devices is growing very rapidly, creating the problem of many non-functioning devices becoming space junk that endangers other devices. FSNPE detectors have the potential to extend the lifetime of electronics and thus reduce the amount of space debris in orbit.

VZLUSAT2 is a Czech technological nanosatellite constructed at the Czech Aerospace Research Centre (VZLU) and its mission objective is to validate technologies for later missions of the upcoming Czech satellite constellation.

CubeSat VZLUSAT-2 is the second space mission in which scientists from the Centre for Applied Physics and Advanced Detection Systems at FNSPE (CAPADS) are participating. The center specializes in research and development in the field of complex radiation-hardened microelectronic circuits and sensors and offers collaboration to commercial and academic entities.

 

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