BeppoSAX satellite

The X-ray astronomy satellite BeppoSAX ("SAX" for Satellite per Astronomia X and "Beppo" in honor of Giuseppe Occhialini, an Italian pioneer in space research) is a project of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) with participation of the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programs (NIVR). The main scientific characteristic of the BeppoSAX mission is the wide spectral coverage, ranging from 0.1 to over 200 keV. BeppoSAX has been developed with the support of a consortium of institutes in Italy and in The Netherlands and of the Space Science Department of ESA (SSD). A collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics also exists for X-ray mirror testing and the calibration of the concentrator/spectrometer system. Prime contractors for space and ground segments are Alenia Spazio and Telespazio respectively.

BeppoSAX was launched into a low-earth low-inclination orbit on April 30, 1996, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Scientific operations started in July 1996 after an instrumental checkout period. The observations were shut down during May-August 1997 in order to implement a 1-gyro mode after 4 of the 6 gyros had failed. Apart from this observation-less period, operations are running smoothly.

The scientific instrumentation on BeppoSAX consists of the Wide Field Cameras and the Narrow Field Instruments. The WFCs are intended for 2 to 30 keV monitoring of large field of views at moderate sensitivity. The NFI are intended for targeted observations of specific X-ray sources, to primarily measure the broad-band spectrum.

BeppoSAX payload configuration

All four Narrow Field Instruments (NFIs) look in the same direction (top or +Z direction in this figure). The central square structure (optical bench) is the opening of the Phoswhich Detector System (PDS). The four long tubes are the four X-ray telescopes/concentrators, with the SAX Medium Energy Concentrator Spectrometer (MECS) and Low-Energy (LE) experiments in the focal planes. At the back is the HPGSPC (High Pressure Gas Scintillation Proportional Counter) Two cameras (WFC1 and WFC2) view the sky perpendicular to the Narrow Field Instruments. Both cameras view the sky in mutual opposite directions.

BeppoSAX serves the community through an extensive program of guest observations. Full details can be found at the web server at the BeppoSAX Science Data Center.

Jean in 't Zand, SRON, March 23, 1999.