e2v image sensors capture Mars landing

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e2v's CCD image sensors on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have captured an image of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suspended from its parachute as the lander successfully arrived on Mars. The event took place on 25 May 2008 and is the first time ever that a spacecraft has captured an image of another spacecraft landing on a planetary body.

The MRO is currently on Mars gathering data on the planet's climate, composition, and surface features: with exceptional images captured by the probe's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument. e2v CCD image sensors are incorporated into HiRISE and it is this instrument that captured the images of the Phoenix Mars Lander. HiRISE normally points downwards, but the whole orbiter was tilted up in order to capture the image of the lander as it approached Mars.

The HiRISE FPA (Focal Plane Array) is populated with 14 high-performance, back-illuminated, time delay (TDI) format, custom CCDs, with high spatial resolution and high signal to noise ratio. The binning functionality and four levels of TDI modes can be selected to optimise the performance of the FPA.

Each of the 14 CCD image sensors is a linear TDI type, with 2048 x 128 pixels. Pixel size is 12 x 12µm. The CCD sensor includes a two-phase serial readout structure with two output amplifiers located at the centre of the readout register. A light shield is incorporated to ensure that incident photons strike only the photosensitive pixels on the sensor. A vertical injection structure is also included and may be used to pre-flush the entire photoactive area or pre-fill select portions only.

The CCD sensors operate in the back-illumination mode to yield high quantum efficiency over the 400 to 900nm wavelength range.

Brian McAllister, general manager of space and scientific imaging at e2v said: 'We are very proud that e2v technology is accelerating discovery and enabling NASA to make space history by capturing this image.'