The SMILE Soft X-ray Imager (SXI) CCD design and development

Soman, M.R.; Hall, D.J.; Holland, A.D.; Burgon, R.; Buggey, T.; Skottfelt, J.; Sembay, S.; Drumm, P.; Thornhill, J.; Read, A.; Sykes, J.; Walton, D.; Branduardi-Raymont, G.; Kennedy, T.; Raab, W.; Verhoeve, P.; Agnolon, D. and Woffinden, C. (2018). The SMILE Soft X-ray Imager (SXI) CCD design and development. Journal of Instrumentation, 13(1), article no. C01022.



SMILE, the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer, is a joint science mission between the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The spacecraft will be uniquely equipped to study the interaction between the Earth’s magnetosphere-ionosphere system and the solar wind on a global scale. SMILE’s instruments will explore this science through imaging of the solar wind charge exchange soft X-ray emission from the dayside magnetosheath, simultaneous imaging of the UV northern aurora and in-situ monitoring of the solar wind and magnetosheath plasma and magnetic field conditions.

The Soft X-ray Imager (SXI) is the instrument being designed to observe X-ray photons emitted by the solar wind charge exchange process at photon energies between 200 eV and 2000 eV. X-rays will be collected using a focal plane array of two custom-designed CCDs, each consisting of 18 µm square pixels in a 4510 by 4510 array.

SMILE will be placed in a highly elliptical polar orbit, passing in and out of the Earth’s radiation belts every 48 hours. Radiation damage accumulated in the CCDs during the mission’s nominal 3-year lifetime will degrade their performance (such as through decreases in charge transfer efficiency), negatively impacting the instrument’s ability to detect low energy X-rays incident on the regions of the CCD image area furthest from the detector outputs. The design of the SMILE-SXI CCDs is presented here, including features and operating methods for mitigating the effects of radiation damage and expected end of life CCD performance. Measurements with a PLATO device that has not been designed for soft X-ray signal levels indicate a temperature-dependent transfer efficiency performance varying between 5 × 10−5 and 9 × 10−4 at expected End of Life for 5.9 keV photons, giving an initial set of measurements from which to extrapolate the performance of the SXI CCDs.

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