INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) is a space telescope for observing gamma rays. It was launched by the European Space Agency into Earth orbit in 2002, and is designed to detect some of the most energetic radiation that comes from space. It was the most sensitive gamma ray observatory in space [3] before NASA's Fermi was launched in 2008.

International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL)
Artist's impression of the INTEGRAL spacecraft
Mission typeAstronomy
OperatorESA  / RKA  / NASA
COSPAR ID2002-048A
SATCAT no.27540
Mission duration17 years, 2 months and 25 days elapsed
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerAlenia Spazio
Launch mass~ 4,000 kg (8,800 lb)
Dry mass~ 3,450 kg (7,610 lb)
Payload mass~ 2,000 kg (4,400 lb)
Dimensions5 m × 2.8 m × 3.2 m (16.4 ft × 9.2 ft × 10.5 ft)
Start of mission
Launch date17 October 2002, 01:33 UTC (2002-10-17UTC01:33Z)[1]
RocketProton-K Blok-DM2
Launch siteBaikonur 200/39
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeHighly elliptical
Semi-major axis87,941 kilometres (54,644 mi)[2]
Perigee altitude6,281.9 kilometres (3,903.4 mi)[2]
Apogee altitude156,859.1 kilometres (97,467.7 mi)[2]
Inclination54.0 degrees[2]
Period4,325.6 minutes[2]
Epoch27 January 2015, 17:47:58 UTC[2]
Main telescope
TypeCoded mask telescope
Diameter3.7 metres (12 ft)
Focal length~ 4 metres (13 ft)
Collecting area500 cm2 (78 sq in) (SPI, JEM-X)
3,100 cm2 (480 sq in) (IBIS)
Wavelengths15 keV to 10 MeV (main)
3 to 35 keV (JEM-X)
500 to 580 nm (OMC)
INTEGRAL mission insignia
ESA astrophysics insignia for INTEGRAL  
Animation of INTEGRAL trajectory
   Earth ·   INTEGRAL

INTEGRAL is an ESA mission in cooperation with the Russian Space Agency and NASA. It has had some notable successes, for example in detecting a mysterious 'iron quasar'. It has also had success in investigating gamma-ray bursts and evidence for black holes.[4]


Because gamma rays and X-rays cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere, direct observations must be made from space. INTEGRAL was launched from Baikonur spaceport, in Kazakhstan. The 2002 launch aboard a Proton-DM2 rocket achieved a 700 km perigee. The onboard thrusters then raised the perigee out of the residual atmosphere, and the worst regions of the radiation belts. The apogee was trimmed with the thrusters to synchronize with Earth's rotation, and thus, the satellite's ground stations.

INTEGRAL's operational orbit has a period of 72 hours, and has a high eccentricity, with perigee close to the Earth at 10,000 km, within the magnetospheric radiation belt. However, most of each orbit is spent outside this region, where scientific observations may take place. It reaches a furthest distance from Earth (apogee) of 153,000 km. The apogee was placed in the northern hemisphere, to reduce time spent in eclipses, and maximize contact time over the ground stations in the northern hemisphere.

It is controlled from ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, ESA's control centre, through ground stations in Belgium (Redu) and California (Goldstone).

Fuel usage is within predictions. INTEGRAL has already exceeded its 2.2-year planned lifetime; barring mechanical failures, it should continue to function for six years or more. As of November 2018 its mission has been extended to the end of 2020 with a likely extension lasting until 2022.[5] Its orbit was adjusted in Jan/Feb 2015 to cause a safe (southern) reentry in Feb 2029. There should be sufficient fuel left for science operations past 2020,[6] if ESA judges that the scientific return of the missions continues justifying its operating costs.


The spacecraft body ("service module") is a copy of the XMM-Newton body. This saved development costs and simplified integration with infrastructure and ground facilities. (An adapter was necessary to mate with the different booster, though.) However, the denser instruments used for gamma rays and hard X-rays make INTEGRAL the heaviest scientific payload ever flown by ESA.

The body is constructed largely of composites. Propulsion is by a hydrazine monopropellant system, containing 544 kg of fuel in four exposed tanks. The titanium tanks were charged with gas to 24 bar (2.4 MPa) at 30 °C, and have tank diaphragms. Attitude control is via a star tracker, multiple Sun sensors, and multiple momentum wheels. The dual solar arrays, spanning 16 meters when deployed and producing 2.4 kW BoL, are backed up by dual nickel-cadmium battery sets.

The instrument structure ("payload module") is also composite. A rigid base supports the detector assemblies, and an H-shaped structure holds the coded masks approximately 4 meters above their detectors. The payload module can be built and tested independently from the service module, reducing cost.

Alenia Spazio (now Thales Alenia Space Italia) was the spacecraft prime contractor.


Four instruments are coaligned to study a target across several ranges. The coded masks were led by the University of Valencia, Spain.

The INTEGRAL imager, IBIS (Imager on-Board the INTEGRAL Satellite) observes from 15 keV (hard X-rays) to 10 MeV (gamma rays). Angular resolution is 12 arcmin, enabling a bright source to be located to better than 1 arcmin. A 95 x 95 mask of rectangular tungsten tiles sits 3.2 meters above the detectors. The detector system contains a forward plane of 128 x 128 Cadmium-Telluride tiles (ISGRI- Integral Soft Gamma-Ray Imager), backed by a 64 x 64 plane of Caesium-Iodide tiles (PICsIT- Pixellated Caesium-Iodide Telescope). ISGRI is sensitive up to 1 MeV, while PICsIT extends to 10 MeV. Both are surrounded by passive shields of tungsten and lead.

Simplified principle of operation of a HURA hexagonal coded aperture mask used in SPI

The primary spectrometer aboard INTEGRAL is SPI, the SPectrometer for INTEGRAL. It was conceived and assembled by the French Space Agency CNES. It observes radiation between 20 keV and 8 MeV. SPI consists of a coded mask of hexagonal tungsten tiles, above a detector plane of 19 germanium crystals (also packed hexagonally). The Ge crystals are actively cooled with a mechanical system, and give an energy resolution of 2 keV at 1 MeV.

IBIS and SPI need a method to stop background radiation. The SPI ACS (AntiCoincidence Shield) consists of a mask shield and a detector shield. The mask shield is a layer of plastic scintillator behind the tungsten tiles. It absorbs secondary radiation produced by impacts on the tungsten. The rest of the shield consists of BGO scintillator tiles around the sides and back of the SPI.

The enormous area of the ACS that results makes it an instrument in its own right. Its all-sky coverage and sensitivity make it a natural gamma-ray burst detector, and a valued component of the IPN (InterPlanetary Network). Recently, new algorithms allow the ACS to act as a telescope, through double Compton scattering. Thus ACS can study objects outside the field of view of the other instruments, with surprising spatial and energy resolution.

Dual JEM-X units provide additional information on targets. They observe in soft and hard X-rays, from 3 to 35 keV. Aside from broadening the spectral coverage, imaging is more precise due to the shorter wavelength. Detectors are gas scintillators (xenon plus methane) in a microstrip layout, below a mask of hexagonal tiles.

INTEGRAL mounts an Optical Monitor (OMC), sensitive from 500 to 580 nm. It acts as both a framing aid, and can note the activity and state of some brighter targets.

The spacecraft also mounts a radiation monitor, INTEGRAL Radiation Environment Monitor (IREM), to note the orbital background for calibration purposes. IREM has an electron and a proton channel, though radiation up to cosmic rays can be sensed. Should the background exceed a preset threshold, IREM can shut down the instruments.

Scientific resultsEdit


  1. ^ "NASA - NSSDC - Spacecraft Details". NASA. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "INTEGRAL Satellite details 2002-048A NORAD 27540". N2YO. 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  3. ^ Teegarden, B. J., Sturner, S. J. (April 1999). "INTEGRAL Observations of Gamma-Ray Bursts". American Astronomical Society, HEAD meeting #4, #17.01; Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 31: 717. Bibcode:1999HEAD....4.1701T.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Integral overview". ESA. 2007-04-13. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  5. ^ "Extended life for ESA's science missions". ESA. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  6. ^ INTEGRAL manoeuvres for the future

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit