On Saturday 26th November, e2v high performance imaging sensors were launched into space onboard an Atlas V rocket as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, which plans to land a rover named “Curiosity” on the surface of Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Programme.
The Mars Science Laboratory is a long-term robotic exploration to assess if Mars is, or ever has been, an environment that can support life. It will be the biggest, most capable robot to ever land on another planet. e2v imaging sensors equip both the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) which was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Chemistry & Camera instrument (ChemCam) which was developed by the Los Alamos National Lab under an agreement with NASA’s JPL. CheMin will identify and measure the minerals on the planet using sophisticated x-ray detection techniques. The ChemCam instrument consists of a laser, which will be used to vaporise rock samples, and a camera which will then use Laser Induced Breakdown (LIB) spectroscopy to analyse the material produced.
CheMin uses the e2v CCD224, a specialised imaging sensor array optimised for the detection of x-rays in a space environment. This high performance imaging sensor is based upon technology originally implemented in the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-Ray observatory, where it has been operating successfully in the EPIC Instrument for the last 10 years. CheMin will expand the use of e2v’s x-ray imaging sensor technology to the Martian surface.
ChemCam uses the e2v CCD42-10 which is part of a standard range of imaging sensors used for various commercial and high performance applications including ground and space borne astronomy, and spectroscopy. The variant used in ChemCam was back-thinned to maximise sensitivity and coated with a custom graded anti-reflection coating to match the spectroscopic requirements of the mission.
e2v Marketing and Applications Manager, Jon Kemp said, “e2v is excited to be enabling NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, with our high performance image sensors to understand whether Mars could support life. Our sensors are vital in acquiring composition and mineralogy data which will enable the analysis of the Martian rocks and surface features that will vastly add to humankind’s understanding of the Red Planet.”
Mars Science Laboratory using laser instrument, artist’s concept – courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
e2v is a leading global provider of specialist technology for high performance systems and equipment; delivering solutions, sub-systems and components for specialist applications within medical & science, aerospace & defence, and commercial & industrial markets. e2v has its headquarters in the UK, employs approximately 1500 people, has design and production facilities across Europe and North America, and has a global network of sales and technical support offices. For the year ended 31 March 2011, e2v reported sales of £229m and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information visit e2v.com.