News | August 18, 2005

NASA's Mars Probe Uses e2v Image Sensors

NASA's new Mars probe, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), was successfully launched on Friday 12 August. The two-tonne orbiter will gather data on Mars' climate, composition and surface features. Image sensors from e2v technologies will capture images of unprecedented resolution and volume from the probe's HiRISE telescopic camera, looking in particular for clues on the planet's water and ice history.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) flying on the Mars Orbiter marries very high resolution and signal-to-noise ratio with a large swath width. This will enable the e2v image sensors, incorporated into the HiRISE camera, to capture images of unprecedented resolution of selected swaths of the Red Planet's surface, at scales down to one metre. Dubbed "The People's Camera", HiRISE encourages the general public to become involved with identifying targets for imaging and data analysis.

e2v has supplied a total of fifty charge coupled device (CCD) image sensors to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. for the Mars probe, 25 of which were flight models. Ball Aerospace arranged the 2048 x 128 x 12 micron pixel TDI (time delay integrated) back-illuminated devices to form a long imager and to generate the high swath width required. The sensors will provide scientists with images of unparalleled resolution and volume from an orbiting spacecraft.

About 2% of the surface of Mars will be mapped during the mission's four year polar orbital mission. At an altitude of 255 kilometres, information will be gathered and analysed to determine whether the current cold and dry planet used to be warmer and wetter, possibly providing a habitat for life forms at one time. The detailed reconnaissance will also enable NASA to identify suitable landing zones for future planned robotic explorers. Furthermore, NASA scientists hope to establish whether the planet would support human outposts in the future.

The Mars probe is due to enter Mars orbit in March 2006.

SOURCE: e2v technologies