e2v lands multi-million pound contract for Russian telescope imager

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British high-tech company, e2v, has signed a multi-million pound contract with the Russian Academy of Sciences to supply an imaging sub-system for the World Space Observatory – Ultraviolet (WSO-UV). e2v will build UV cameras for the telescope’s spectrographs.

The WSO-UV is a major international collaboration led by Russia to build a 1.7 metre primary space telescope. It will work in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum and will study the Universe in wavelengths beyond the reach of ground-based instruments.

The optics of the observatory – the telescope, equipped with high- and low-resolution spectrographs – will be made in Russia while e2v will supply UV cameras. These will consist of CCD image sensors, cryostat enclosures and drive electronics for all three of the spectrographs on board WSO-UV.

e2v’s back-thinned image sensors will be configured and tested for optimum quantum efficiency (QE) between 120nm and 310nm, a range considerably lower than the typical 270nm test limit. The company will also design a custom vacuum cryostat enclosure to ensure stable operation at short wavelengths.

e2v is working with RAL Space’s Imaging Systems at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) for the supply of the specialist, space-qualified CCD drive electronics.

Another significant feature of the sub-system is the ability to integrate for up to an hour and readout low signal levels with very low noise. This is achieved using an e2v image sensor, special video processing electronics from RAL and the low temperature operation (-100°C) provided by the cryostat.

The telescope is planned for launch into space in 2016.

Keith Attwood, CEO of e2v, said: ‘We are very pleased to be supplying a full imaging sub-system for the WSO-UV. This contract represents the biggest order we have ever received from a Russian organisation and we are excited to be part of this mission which, with the help of our imaging system, will study the Universe in wavelengths beyond the reach of ground-based instruments. Given the international nature of this project I am delighted that we are able to demonstrate the quality of British technology in an industry which requires the highest levels of performance and brings together suppliers from around the world.’

The contract was signed by Attwood and Vladimir Nevolin, deputy director of the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences at the MAKS International Aviation and Space Show in Zhukovsky, Russia.

Also attending the signing were representatives from the British Embassy who have supported this relationship, including Barbara Habberjam, minister counsellor (Economic and Trade and Investment), UKTI British Embassy Moscow; Olga Makarchuk, advanced engineering and transport, UKTI British Consulate-General St Petersburg; and Anastasia Akhmedshina, UKTI British Embassy Moscow.

The development of the technology required for this programme has been supported by a UK Regional Growth Fund (RGF) grant.

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