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  • Rockwell Scientific to Make Telescope IR Sensors
Dec 2003
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Dec. 15 -- The University of Arizona announced it has selected Rockwell Scientific Co. LLC to provide the infrared focal plane arrays for the James Webb Space Telescope near-infrared camera (NIRCam) under an award from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"The detector arrays to be supplied by Rockwell Scientific are the heart of the NIRCam instrument, and they enable the sensitive measurements that make the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mission so exciting," said Marcia Rieke, the university's principal investigator for the NIRCam instrument.

JWST, part of NASA's Origins program, will detect the first light-emitting objects from the universe after the Big Bang. The light from these most distant luminous objects began its journey almost 12 to 13 billion years ago, very close to the beginning of the universe, which is now believed to be 13.7 billion years old.

"The NIRCam design is optimized to find these 'first light' sources, but it also includes features that will make it a wonderful tool to study star formation in the Milky Way galaxy and to discover and characterize planets around other stars," Rieke said.

NIRCam will fly ten of Rockwell Scientific Co.'s molecular beam epitaxy HgCdTe 2048x2048 element detector arrays, the largest available with current technology, for a total of 40 megapixels. To form the focal plane array, or FPA, the company said, they will be indium-bump-bonded to its HAWAII-2RG readout integrated circuit. The HAWAII-2RG, developed with JWST in mind, is already in use by ground-based astronomers.

"These (NIRCam arrays) will be the largest-format, lowest-noise infrared FPAs ever flown in space," said James Garnett, Rockwell Scientific's NIRCampProgram manager. "The science these arrays will provide will revolutionize our understanding of the universe in the new millennium, much as the Hubble Space Telescope did in the last," he said.

The company will make the FPAs at its new Camarillo production facility.

The JWST NIRCam infrared-sensor team includes Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, United Microelectronics Corp., GL Scientific and Conceptual Analytics LLC.

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