Silicon-semiconductor image sensor developer e2v (Saint Egreve, France) reports that on Feb. 16, 2011, imaging sensors from e2v were launched into space onboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Johannes Kepler spacecraft, the second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to be sent to the International Space Station (ISS).
e2v CCD47-20 charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensors were selected by optical and space instrumentation company SODERN (Limeil-Brevannes Cedex, France) as part of the two key systems it delivered for the ATV: an SED16 star tracker, an optical device used for determining the orientation of the spacecraft by measuring its position relative to stars; and a Videometer, a system SODERN developed that is the primary rendezvous and docking sensor for the spacecraft. The first ATV, Jules Verne, was also equipped with these e2v sensors and successfully completed its mission in 2008.
The Johannes Kepler ATV was carried into orbit onboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana and hauled almost 7.1 tons of cargo (the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the rocket) to the Station 360 km above Earth. The automatic spacecraft is equipped with its own propulsion and a high-precision navigation system, which uses the CCD image sensors to automatically guide it into dock at the ISS. The ISS relies on frequent deliveries of equipment, spare parts, food, air, and water for its permanent crew. The unmanned ATV is essential in delivering supplies to it and will stay attached to the station, providing reboost and attitude control for three and a half months. It will then be undocked and commanded to burn up in the atmosphere over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.
-- Posted by Vision Systems Design