Back-up system HIFI passes first tests

The researchers responsible for the switch-on of HIFI can enjoy a peaceful Christmas Holiday: the back-up stystem of HIFI has passed the first tests. In order to be able to be back in business in January 2010 the electronic modules of HIFI’s back-up system are tested one by one. The past few weeks this was done with the ICU en FCU modules. Both functioned perfectly. This is a major step back to switch on, and getting the HIFI science to flow again in January.

The coming weeks also the Local Control Unit will be tested, the module in which the malfunction occurred which has put HIFI out of business the last couple of months. So another major step still has to be taken. But the first test results give food for the thought that the LCU will also pass all tests.

For the next three years HIFI – on board of the ESA Herschel Space Observatory and built by a SRON-led international consortium – will study the physical and chemical conditions in gas clouds in the Milky Way and other galaxies. The instrument will measure carbon and water in these clouds and relate this to the birth and early evolution of stars and planets. HIFI will also look at planets and comets in our own Solar System.