e2v CCD imaging sensors are launched into space

MARCH 10, 2009--On Mar. 6, 2009, e2v's CCD imaging sensors were launched into space onboard the Kepler spacecraft as it successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral, FL, USA, onboard a Delta II rocket on its three-and-a-half-year (or more) mission.

Mar 10th, 2009

MARCH 10, 2009--On Mar. 6, 2009, e2v's (Chelmsford, UK; www.e2v.com) CCD imaging sensors were launched into space onboard the Kepler spacecraft as it successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral, FL, USA, onboard a Delta II rocket on its three-and-a-half-year (or more) mission.

Kepler has been designed by NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. to simultaneously monitor from space more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy. It will observe sun-like stars, seeking to discover Earth-like planets whose orbits about their star are at distances where liquid water can exist, and therefore perhaps life could form.

Ball Aerospace designed, built, and tested Kepler's photometer, a specially designed 0.95-m-aperture, wide-field-of-view Schmidt telescope, with a 1.4-m primary mirror. With more than 95 Mpixels, Kepler's focal plane array of 42 e2v backside-illuminated CCD90s forms the largest array of CCDs ever launched into space by NASA. The CCDs are not used to take sharp pictures; instead, the images are intentionally defocused to about 10 arc seconds to improve the photometric precision.

The CCDs populating the focal plane array have the following characteristics:

  • 2200 x 1044 active pixels; 27-µm size; 28 x 55-mm image area
  • Back-thinned for high spectral response across the visible and NIR range
  • Low noise and large signal handling characteristics, with stable performance
  • Precision flatness and device location within a custom package
  • 3-MHz read-out rate

"e2v's imaging sensors are the heart of the Kepler mission," says John Troeltzsch, Ball Aerospace program manager. "The CCDs will allow Kepler to detect Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zone around other stars and possibly answer the million dollar question, 'Are we alone?'"

Brian McAllister, general manager of space & scientific imaging at e2v, says, "e2v is proud to be able to help NASA accelerate discovery by supplying imaging sensors for this telescope. This will be the largest camera launched in space and promises some exciting discoveries."

More information about the Kepler mission is available at http://kepler.nasa.gov/. More information about extrasolar planets and NASA's planet finding program can be found at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov.

-- Posted by Carrie Meadows, www.vision-systems.com

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