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
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)
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.