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First light in the SwissFEL Maloja endstation

On Friday June 26th 2020, late in the evening, the intense soft X-ray pulses from the Athos undulator line at SwissFEL have entered the Maloja endstation for the first time. In the following days already electron, ion, and photon spectra could be measured from single and unfocused x-ray pulses. This is a major step towards bringing the SwissFEL Athos branch into operations.

The Athos branch of SwissFEL produced first soft x-ray pulses in December 2019 with only two out of sixteen undulator modules installed. At that time, the Maloja experimental hall was still completely empty and large boxes with equipment started arriving.

In the following months, teams from across PSI poured concrete baseplates for the beamline and endstation optics, laid cables, and installed vacuum systems. Over a hundred meter of beamline and the endstation were on a fast track when a major and unforeseen hurdle developed, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Switzerland.

With virtually all of PSI in home office, new concepts needed to be developed. A small number of people continued working onsite, installing the endstation infrastructure and components as well as finished the hundred meters of beamline vacuum and optical systems. Other staff worked remotely on design and engineering of components, developed data analysis routines, and software tools.

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The National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR) are a research instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation