On the 6th March 2009, e2v’s high performance CCD (Charge Coupled Device) imaging sensors were launched into space onboard the Kepler spacecraft as it successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida onboard a Delta II rocket on its 3 ½ (or more) year 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 1.4m primary mirror. With more than 95 megapixels, Kepler’s focal plane array of 42 e2v back illuminated CCD90s forms the largest array of CCDs ever launched into space by NASA. The CCDs are not used to take sharp pictures. The images are intentionally defocused to about 10 arc seconds to improve the photometric precision.
The 42 e2v CCD90s populating the focal plane array have the following characteristics:
- 2200 x 1044 active pixels; 27 um size; 28 x 55 mm image area.
- Back thinned for high spectral response across the visible and near-IR 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.
Margaret A. Frerking, Kepler’s Deputy Project Manager from NASA JPL, said “Kepler, with its large focal plane array, will let us observe over 100,000 stars simultaneously and discover as many as 100 earth like planets during the course of the mission.”
"e2v's imaging sensors are the heart of the Kepler mission," said John Troeltzsch, Ball Aerospace program manager. "The CCDs will allow Kepler to detect Earthlike planets orbiting in the habitable zone around other stars and possibly answer the million dollar queston, 'Are we alone?'"
Brian McAllister, General Manager of Space & Scientific Imaging at e2v said “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 is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov.
The NASA Ames Research Center is home to Kepler’s science principal investigator, and is also responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Kepler mission development is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Operation of the spacecraft after launch will be performed by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, with Ball providing system engineering and mission planning.
Image Courtesy of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
e2v’s objective is to be a global leader in the design and supply of specialised components and sub-systems that enable the world’s leading systems companies to deliver innovative solutions for medical and science, aerospace and defence, and commercial and industrial markets.
e2v has 4 major product groups:
- High performance electron devices and subsystems for applications including defence electronic countermeasures, radiotherapy cancer treatment, and radar systems
- Advanced Imaging sensors and cameras for applications including industrial process control, dental X-ray systems, space science and life sciences
- Specialist semiconductors, including logic, memory and microprocessors for high reliability mission-critical programs in avionics, defence and telecommunications, sensor data acquisition, and high speed data conversion
- A range of professional sensing products for applications including fire, rescue and security thermal imaging, X-ray spectroscopy, and military surveillance, targeting and guidance
For the year ended 31 March 2008, e2v achieved sales of £205m and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. In October 2008 e2v acquired QP semiconductor, a leading US-based designer and supplier of specialty semiconductor components used in military and aerospace applications, establishing e2v’s first US manufacturing base.
The Company is headquartered in the United Kingdom and has approximately 1800 employees in six production facilities across Europe and North America. e2v also operates a global network of sales and technical support offices, supported by local distributors and resellers.
Further information is available from www.e2v.com
Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the home organization of the science principal investigator, and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations. For more information about the Kepler mission, visit: