NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Engineering Technicians John Hood, Amy Meekham, and Mark Sloan were featured on the Small Steps, Giant Leaps podcast where they discussed details of their work on the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer.
A joint effort between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) is the first space observatory dedicated to studying the polarization of X-rays coming from objects like exploded stars and black holes. Polarization describes how the X-ray light is oriented as it travels through space.
Launched in December 2021, IXPE carries three identical telescopes. Each telescope includes a set of cylindrical mirrors, or optics, and a sensitive detector. The mirrors collect X-rays from celestial objects and focus them onto the detectors, which make an image of the incoming X-rays and measure the polarization. All three mirror sets are separated from their corresponding detectors by a deployable 12-foot (3.7-meter) boom.
In this episode of Small Steps, Giant Leaps, the Engineering Technicians talk about:
- Intricate details and incredible precision required to build IXPE
- Technicians’ responses to the pressure of machining, polishing, and replicating IXPE components
- Helpful lessons learned for early career technicians
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