Herschel is the fourth "cornerstone" mission in the ESA science programme, launched in May 2009. With a 3.5 m Cassegrain telescope it is the largest space telescope ever. Herschel is performing photometry and spectroscopy in the infrared/sub-mm window (55-671 µm), bridging the gap between earlier infrared space missions and groundbased facilities. The instruments onboard will enable great progress being made in many areas of astronomy.
SRON is the Principal Investigator institute for HIFI, one of the three instruments on Herschel. Starting in 2003, first a Development Model, then a Qualification Model and finally a Flight Model were built, tested and characterised. SRON has been coordinating these efforts, which were distributed over ~25 institutes in a dozen countries. In addition, SRON was responsible for the construction of 2 of the 7 mixers, bands 3 and 4 (800-1120 GHz). The junctions for these mixers have a fully new design. SRON was also responsible for the cryogenic Focal Plane Unit (FPU) subsystem, which is a complicated opto-mechanical box with many functions, containing optics, mixer assemblies, diplexers, straps, coatings, EMC suppression circuits, etc. for 7 mixer bands. Also the warm electronics to control the FPU were made at SRON.
Please see "HIFI Science" in the left menu for an overview of the areas of research with HIFI and links for further reading. Information/documentation with regard to the development and building of HIFI can be found in the "Herschel/HIFI project" menu item.