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  • DALSA Unit Builds Chips For Mars Rovers
Jun 2003
WATERLOO, Ontario, June 12 -- Charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor chips on board the two Mars Exploration Rover (MER) missions were manufactured at DALSA's semiconductor division in Bromont, Quebec. The space-qualified chips, part of sophisticated camera systems for navigation and scientific investigation, were designed in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

The chips are critical components in the nine electronic cameras aboard the two identical Mars rovers. Each camera integrates a scientific-grade, 1024- by 1024-pixel CCD image sensor that was fabricated in close collaboration with engineers at JPL and manufactured at the DALSA Bromont wafer foundry. Three of the cameras on the rover are responsible for scientific investigation; six others aid in navigating the vehicle on the surface of Mars. The cameras will serve as the vehicle’s "electronic eyes" as it examines its landing site for geological evidence of past liquid water activity and past environmental conditions hospitable to life.

The two panoramic cameras (Pancams) that use the DALSA-manufactured chips, are the most sophisticated color imaging systems ever sent to the surface of another planet. The cameras are located on a "camera bar" that sits on top of the mast of the rover. The two cameras will take high-resolution views of the surface and sky through eight different colored filters. Pancam’s mast assembly allows the cameras to rotate a complete 360 degrees, while the camera bar itself can swing up or down through 180 degrees of elevation. This allows the cameras to generate panoramic image mosaics as large as 4,000 pixels high by 24,000 pixels around.

Both rovers have been built, managed and operated for the NASA Office of Space Science by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology. The first mission, MER-A (nicknamed Spirit) was launched June 10; the spacecraft carrying the first new rover is expected to enter the Martian atmosphere on Jan. 4. The second rover, MER-B (Opportunity), was launched Monday.

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