JUNE 13--e2v technologies (Chelmsford, UK; www.e2v.com), a developer and manufacturer of high-technology electronic components and subsystems, has been awarded the flight-phase contract to supply the European Space Agency (ESA) with CCD imaging sensors for the primary scientific instrument on its GAIA space mission. This contract is worth 14.3 million Euros (£9.6 million) over the coming three years and is the culmination of a successful two-year contract for the design and development of a custom CCD image sensor specifically tailored to the needs of the GAIA program. The development-phase contract was placed in 2003 and was valued at 2 million Euros (£1.3 million), and there are further options to supply up to another 10 million Euros (£6.7 million) of flight-grade sensors for this program.
Anticipated for launch in 2011, GAIA aims to map our galaxy, the Milky Way, by logging the 1 billion stars and more than 100,000 objects in the solar system, creating the largest, most accurate 3-D map of the galaxy to date. The sky will be continually scanned, and it is anticipated that as many as 10,000 planets around other stars may be discovered.
The GAIA project will involve the manufacture in significant volumes of some of the highest-performance large-area CCD image sensors ever produced. These will be manufactured at e2v's headquarters in Chelmsford. The CCD image sensors will ultimately be assembled by a subcontractor selected by ESA, into the largest focal plane ever flown in space. e2v's CCD image sensors have been supplied to a variety of space projects over many years, including NASA's Hubble space telescope and ESA's ENVISAT, XMM Newton, and Rosetta programs.