Miniaturized sensors promise lower-cost space exploration

A team of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, Pasadena, CA) researchers has developed an integrated multiple-instrument camera-spectrometer system that brings together an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer, an infrared imaging spectrometer, and two visible cameras into a single 11-lb package that consumes less than 5 W of power and is "smaller than a breadbox." Intended for use by NASA in space exploration, this system comprises the planetary integrated camera spectrometer (PICS), which can character

Dec 1st, 1995

Miniaturized sensors promise lower-cost space exploration

A team of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, Pasadena, CA) researchers has developed an integrated multiple-instrument camera-spectrometer system that brings together an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer, an infrared imaging spectrometer, and two visible cameras into a single 11-lb package that consumes less than 5 W of power and is "smaller than a breadbox." Intended for use by NASA in space exploration, this system comprises the planetary integrated camera spectrometer (PICS), which can characterize the chemical makeup, thermal properties, weather, atmospheric physics, and geophysics of bodies in the solar system.

In the past, each of these spacecraft instruments was built with its own dedicated optical system and electronics. In PICS, though, the instruments share common telescope optics and extremely low-power, miniaturized instrument electronics. Furthermore, explains PICS program manager Gregg Vane of JPL, "All the optical and structural components are made from silicon carbide. The material is inexpensive, highly dimensionally stable and chemically nonreactive, and possesses excellent structural capabilities and manufacturability." The PICS prototype recently completed successful science and engineering tests that qualify the instrument for development as flight hardware, making it a candidate for flight on several future planetary spacecraft missions.

More in Research