The INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) is a space telescope for observing gamma rays of energies up to 8 MeV. It was launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) into Earth orbit in 2002, and is designed to provide imaging and spectroscopy of cosmic sources. In the MeV energy range, it is the most sensitive gamma ray observatory in space.[3] It is sensitive to higher energy photons than X-ray instruments such as NuSTAR, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, XMM-Newton, and lower than other gamma-ray instruments such Fermi and HESS.

International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL)
Artist's impression of the INTEGRAL spacecraft
Mission typeAstronomy
OperatorESA  / RKA  / NASA
COSPAR ID2002-048A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.27540
Mission duration21 years, 7 months and 29 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 axis81,116 kilometres (50,403 mi)[2]
Perigee altitude1,911 kilometres (1,187 mi)[2]
Apogee altitude147,563 kilometres (91,691 mi)[2]
Inclination68.0 degrees[2]
Period3,832.0 minutes[2]
Epoch17 October 2021, 05:57:43 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 spacecraft orbit trajectory
   Earth ·   INTEGRAL

Photons in INTEGRAL's energy range are emitted by relativistic and supra-thermal[clarification needed] particles in violent sources, radioactivity from unstable isotopes produced during nucleosynthesis, X-ray binaries, and astronomical transients of all types, including gamma-ray bursts. The spacecraft's instruments have very wide fields of view, which is particularly useful for detecting gamma-ray emission from transient sources as they can continuously monitor large parts of the sky.

INTEGRAL is an ESA mission with additional contributions from European member states including Italy, France, Germany, and Spain. Cooperation partners are the Russian Space Agency with IKI (military CP Comand Punkt KW) and NASA.

As of June 2023, INTEGRAL continues to operate despite the loss of its thrusters through the use of its reaction wheels and solar radiation pressure.[4][5]



Radiation more energetic than optical light, such as ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays, cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere, and direct observations must be made from space. INTEGRAL is an observatory, scientists can propose for observing time of their desired target regions, data are public after a proprietary period of up to one year.

INTEGRAL was launched from the Russian Baikonur spaceport, in Kazakhstan. The 2002 launch aboard a Proton-DM2 rocket achieved a 3-day elliptical orbit with an apogee of nearly 160,000 km and a perigee of above 2,000 km, hence mostly beyond radiation belts which would otherwise lead to high instrumental backgrounds from charged-particle activation. The spacecraft and instruments are controlled from ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, ESA's control centre, through ground stations in Belgium (Redu) and California (Goldstone).

2015: Fuel usage is much lower than predictions. INTEGRAL has far exceeded its 2+3-year planned lifetime, and is set to enter Earth atmosphere in 2029 as a definite end of the mission. Its orbit was adjusted in Jan/Feb 2015 to cause such a safe (southern) reentry (due to lunar/solar perturbations, predicted for 2029), using half the remaining fuel then.[6][7]

In July 2020 INTEGRAL put itself in safe-mode, and it seemed the thrusters had failed. Since then alternative algorithms to slew and unload the reaction wheels have been developed and tested.[8]

In September 2021 a single event upset triggered a sequence of events that put INTEGRAL into an uncontrolled tumbling state, considered to be a 'mission critical anomaly'. The operations team used the reaction wheels to recover attitude control.[4][5]

In March 2023, INTEGRAL science operations were extended to the end of 2024, which will be followed by a two-year post-operations phase and further monitoring of the spacecraft until its estimated reentry in February 2029.[9]

Also in March 2023, a new software based safe mode was tested that would use reaction wheels (rather than the failed thrusters).[10]



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 (ESM), 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 with large fields-of-view are co-aligned on this platform, to study targets across such a wide energy range of almost two orders of magnitude in energy (other astronomy instruments in X-rays or optical cover much smaller ranges of factors of a few at most). Imaging is achieved by coded masks casting a shadowgram onto pixelised cameras; the tungsten masks were provided 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. IBIS was provided by PI institutes in Rome/Italy and Paris/France.

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

The spectrometer aboard INTEGRAL is SPI, the SPectrometer of INTEGRAL. It was conceived and assembled by the French Space Agency CNES, with PI institutes in Toulouse/France and Garching/Germany. It observes radiation between 20 keV and 8 MeV. SPI has a coded mask of hexagonal tungsten tiles, above a detector plane of 19 germanium crystals (also packed hexagonally). The high energy resolution of 2 keV at 1 MeV is capable to resolve all candidate gamma-ray lines. The Ge crystals are actively cooled with a mechanical system of Stirling coolers to about 80K.

IBIS and SPI use active detectors to detect and veto charged particles that lead to background radiation. The SPI ACS (AntiCoincidence Shield) consists of a BGO scintillator blocks surrounding the camera and aperture, detecting all charged particles, and photons exceeding an energy of about 75 keV, that would hit the instrument from directions different from the aperture. A thin layer of plastic scintillator behind the tungsten tiles serves as additional charged-particle detector within the aperture.

The large effective area of the ACS turned out to be useful as 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).

Dual JEM-X units provide additional information on sources at 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 includes an Optical Monitor (OMC) instrument, sensitive from 500 to 580 nm. It acts as both a framing aid, and can note the activity and state of some brighter targets, e.g. it had been useful to monitor supernova light over months from SN2014J.

The spacecraft also includes 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 results


INTEGRAL contributes to multi-messenger astronomy, detecting gamma rays from the first merger of two neutron stars observed in gravitational waves, and from a fast radio burst. [11] By 2018, approximately 5,600 scientific papers had been published, averaging one every 29 hours since the launch.[12]

See also



  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. 17 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  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.
  4. ^ a b "Three hours to save Integral". ESA. 18 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Integral Latest News". ESA. 1 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  6. ^ Ugo, Kuulkers, Erik Ferrigno, Carlo Kretschmar, Peter Alfonso-Garzon, Julia Baab, Marius Bazzano, Angela Belanger, Guillaume Benson, Ian Bird, Anthony J. Bozzo, Enrico Brandt, Soren Coe, Elliott Caballero, Isabel Cangemi, Floriane Chenevez, Jerome Cenko, Bradley Cinar, Nebil Coleiro, Alexis De Padova, Stefano Diehl, Roland Dietze, Claudia Domingo, Albert Drapes, Mark D'uva, Eleonora Ehle, Matthias Ebrero, Jacobo Edirimanne, Mithrajith Eismont, Natan A. Finn, Timothy Fiocchi, Mariateresa Tomas, Elena Garcia Gaudenzi, Gianluca Godard, Thomas Goldwurm, Andrea Gotz, Diego Gouiffes, Christian Grebenev, Sergei A. Greiner, Jochen Gros, Aleksandra Hanlon, Lorraine Hermsen, Wim Hernandez, Cristina Hernanz, Margarita Huebner, Jutta Jourdain, Elisabeth La Rosa, Giovanni Labanti, Claudio Laurent, Philippe Lehanka, Alexander Lund, Niels Madison, James Malzac, Julien Martin, Jim Mas-Hesse, J. Miguel McBreen, Brian McDonald, Alastair McEnery, Julie Mereghetti, Sandro Natalucci, Lorenzo Ness, Jan-Uwe Oxborrow, Carol Anne Palmer, John Peschke, Sibylle Petrucciani, Francesco Pfeil, Norbert Reichenbaecher, Michael Rodi, James Rodriguez, Jerome Roques, Jean-Pierre Donate, Emilio Salazar Salt, Dave Sanchez-Fernandez, Celia Sauvageon, Aymeric Savchenko, Volodymyr Sazonov, Sergey Yu. Scaglioni, Stefano Schartel, Norbert Siegert, Thomas Southworth, Richard Sunyaev, Rashid A. Toma, Liviu Ubertini, Pietro Heuvel, Ed P. J. van den von Kienlin, Andreas von Krusenstiern, Nikolai Winkler, Christoph Wojciech, Hajdas Zannoni (2021-06-23). INTEGRAL reloaded: spacecraft, instruments and ground system. OCLC 1262720738.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Huebner, Jutta M.; Southworth, Richard T.; Salt, David J.; Dietze, Claudia; McDonald, Alastair; Merz, Klaus; Ziegler, Gerald (2016-05-13). "Clean-up your space: INTEGRAL low cost end-of-life disposal". SpaceOps 2016 Conference. Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. doi:10.2514/6.2016-2359. ISBN 978-1-62410-426-8.
  8. ^ "Rescuing Integral: No thrust? No problem" July 2021
  9. ^ "Extended life for ESA's science missions". ESA. 7 March 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  10. ^ Integral safe at last
  11. ^ Savchenko, Volodymyr (2019-10-29). "Hunting for elusive multi-messenger transients with INTEGRAL". Proceedings of the New Era of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics — PoS(Asterics2019). 90. Trieste, Italy: Sissa Medialab: 071. Bibcode:2019MmSAI..90...19S. doi:10.22323/1.357.0071. S2CID 213420364.
  12. ^ Dobberstein, Laura (20 October 2022). "ESA celebrates an unlikely 20 years of the Integral mission". Retrieved 24 October 2022.