19.05.2017 change 19.05.2017

Polish scientists improve rocket launch and space exploration

Noise at launch can damage delicate parts of telescopes sent to space. Polish scientists are working on a mechanism that will minimize this noise, allowing all parts of the telescope to safely reach space.

The project is a joint effort of researchers from the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the AGH University of Science and Technology (Department of Mechanics and Vibroacoustics) in Kraków and the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center PAS.

The launch of the Ariane 5 rocket, which will use the new technology, is scheduled for 2028. The exact location of the launch (possibly French Guiana) will be decided by the European Space Agency (ESA), which has invited Polish researchers to participate in the space mission ATHENA.

ATHENA is a modern X-ray telescope that will be launched into orbit by a rocket in 2028. The telescope will study X-rays in space. Approx. 50% matter in space occurs in the form of a thin, hot gas that radiates in the X-ray range. X rays are generated by hot parts of the Universe, such as galaxies and their clusters, areas near black holes. However, this radiation is blocked by the Earth\'s atmosphere, so we can only study it using satellite missions.

Scientists from AGH are responsible for minimizing the sound pressure at launch. Researchers will develop a shield that will protect the delicate part of the telescope from the damage caused by rocket noise - the shield will protect an extremely thin filter mounted in the X-ray telescope. This device is so delicate that until now this type of equipment could be damaged during take-off due to the immense strength of the sound that accompanies rocket launch. As a result, the equipment could not be used in space. Until now, the use of such filters was practically impossible.

Creating noise shields for these filters will allow to send a layer of material thin enough to make X-ray measurements into space.

At present, the AGH team prepares various solutions for reducing the sound force during take-off by using the geometry of the filter shield. The team works based on data received from the ESA - the shield must have specific dimensions, weight, and it must be made of specific materials.

"At the moment, our work involves measuring the level of noise (generated at the launch of a rocket) in the device, in which the filter will be mounted. We simulate the sound of the rocket with a special speaker. The microphone in the position of the filter collects information about how loud it gets in a given location, i.e. how much noise will act on the filter" - explained Dr Adam Pilch from AGH.

"Space telescopes are a very specific branch of satellite technology, they are not built very often and we try to make each telescope more perfect so that we can discover more and more new things" - said Szymon Polak of the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and added: "Thanks to participation in the construction of the ATHENA telescope, the Polish space sector will be able to expand".

The ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics) mission is being implemented by the European Space Agency within the framework of the Space Vision program. The cost of the mission which will exceed 900 million euros. Poland joined the mission thanks to the efforts of Prof. Agata Różańska from the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center PAS in Warsaw. Prof. Różańska coordinates the project in Poland.

PAP - Nauka w Polsce, Beata Kołodziej

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