CHELMSFORD, England, Jan. 23 -- The European Space Agency's Rosetta Orbiter will rely on sensors from UK-based e2v technologies to capture vital images as it rendezvouses with the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
COMET-TAILING PHOTOGRAPHER: ev2's charge-coupled devices will provide unprecedented images from Europe's Rosetta Orbiter.
Rosetta, set to launch from its French Guiana spaceport next month, will travel with the comet for 12 months to study and record changes to its nucleus as it journeys to the sun. Due to reach Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, it will also record scientific data on Mars and at least one nearby asteroid. Scientists expect to see the development of 67P's characteristic tail as the sun starts to thaw the ice and it evaporates in high-pressure jets from the comet's surface.
This will be the first time a space mission has orbited and landed on a comet. Its goal is to study the origin of comets, the relationship between cometary and interstellar material and its implications with regard to the origin of the solar system.
e2v technologies has supplied image sensors for the spacecraft's navigation system and the high-resolution devices that make up its main science camera. The light-sensitive sensors in the science camera will capture high-resolution images of 67P's nucleus and surroundings, initially from a distance of a few kilometers. Once safely in orbit around the comet, the breakaway Rosetta lander will descend and anchor itself on its icy surface for more detailed surveying and the chance to transmit unprecedented images back to Earth.
e2v made special versions of its CCD42-40 charge-coupled devices (CCDs) for use in Rosetta's optical, spectroscopic and infrared remote-imaging system (OSIRIS) camera, the mission's key scientific imaging instrument. For navigation, it selected front-illuminated CCD47-20s, a global standard for star trackers.
The company has previously made image sensors for the Hubble space telescope, the MOST optical space telescope, NASA's Kepler telescope and XMM-Newton's x-ray telescope, and for Megacam, the wide-field camera mounted on the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope.
ev2 will display samples of its CCDs used in space programs, including Rosetta, from booth 620 at Photonics West 2004, being held next week in San Jose, Calif.
For more information, visit: www.e2vtechnologies.com