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DRS Focal Plane Arrays Aboard SIRTF

Photonics.com
Sep 2003
PARSIPPANY, N.J., Sept. 3 --DRS Technologies Inc.'s infrared sensors were used on two of three astronomical instruments supporting the NASA Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), which was launched last week. SIRTF is the largest infrared telescope ever launched into space.

The DRS-produced infrared sensors, known as focal plane arrays (FPAs), were integrated into the infrared spectrograph and the multiband imaging photometer, two of the SIRTF's three science instruments, to provide advanced imaging capabilities in the long wavelength region up to 40 micrometers. DRS's FPAs provide high reliability and spectral sensitivity while recording the position, intensity and wavelength of radiation of spatial objects. The company's DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems unit, based in Anaheim, Calif., developed the focal plane arrays.

The SIRTF observatory is expected to be approximately a thousand times more sensitive than Earth-based infrared telescopes. This is because nearly all of the infrared radiation emitted by objects in space is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, creating the need for a space-based infrared observatory with high sensitivity, DRS said. Advanced sensor arrays and infrared detectors will give SIRTF the ability to map large complex areas and measure spectra at least a million times faster than any other space-borne infrared telescope.

SIRTF is a space-borne, cryogenically cooled infrared observatory capable of studying objects ranging from our solar system to the distant reaches of the universe. The observatory carries an 85-centimeter cryogenic telescope and three cryogenically cooled science instruments capable of performing imaging and spectroscopy in the 3.6 to 160 micron range. SIRTF is the final element in NASA's Great Observatories Program -- a family of four orbiting observatories and an important scientific and technical link to the new Astronomical Search for Origins Program. This program is designed to provide information associated with how galaxies, stars and planets form and develop. Other missions included the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Each mission observed the universe in a different kind of light, including visible, gamma rays, x-rays and infrared.

SIRTF's highly sensitive instruments will provide a unique view of the universe and allow visualization into regions of space that are hidden from optical telescopes. Many areas of space are filled with vast, dense clouds of gas and dust that block the view from Earth. Infrared penetrates these clouds, allowing visibility into regions of star formation, the centers of galaxies and newly forming planetary systems. Infrared space also provides information about much colder objects, such as smaller stars too dim to be detected by their visible light, extra solar planets and giant molecular clouds.

For more information, visit: www.drs.com



GLOSSARY
infrared telescope
A telescope that transmits, enlarges and converts infrared images.
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