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Teledyne e2v sensors key to ESA’s FLEX satellite mission

09 Aug 2017

Earth Explorer programme, scheduled to launch in 2022, will study health of our crops and plants from space.

Teledyne e2v has won a multimillion euro contract by OHB System to supply customised CCD image sensors for the Fluorescence Explorer (FLEX) satellite mission, under a programme of and funded by the European Space Agency.

The FLEX Mission, the eighth in ESA’s Earth Explorer programme, is scheduled to launch in 2022. For the first time, it will enable plant photosynthetic activity to be measured from space by detecting the faint fluorescent glow emitted when atmospheric CO2 and sunlight is converted into energy-rich carbohydrates.

Teledyne e2v will design, develop and carry out the qualification of high performance CCDs and their customised package for integration into the FLEX instrument, which is under development by Leonardo, Florence, Italy and OHB System, Wessling, Germany.

The ESA Earth Explorer missions focus on the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and the Earth’s interior, with emphasis on the interactions between these components and on the impact that human activities have on Earth’s processes.

The FLEX mission is intended to advance understanding of the functioning of the photosynthetic machinery and health and performance of vegetation on Earth. The mission will deliver a monthly global map with an on-ground spatial resolution of 300m x 300m.

Giuseppe Borghi, VP Business Development at Teledyne e2v, commented, “Teledyne e2v already provides enabling technology for ESA’s visible Sentinel missions including Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 which are delivering astonishing images. We are therefore delighted to extend this relationship as part of the OHB and Leonardo team to provide the critical CCD sensor technology for the exciting FLEX mission.”

FLEX and CCD specifications

The FLEX payload consists of the high-resolution Fluorescence Imaging Spectrometer (FLORIS), a pushbroom instrument with a swath width of 150km and covering the 500-780nm spectral range. The Teledyne e2v CCDs are of custom frame transfer design, meeting the specific requirements of the ESA-funded FLORIS instrument. They feature large rectangular pixels, high quantum efficiency performance, low noise and the ability to run at rapid transfer speeds.

The custom package for the CCDs is designed to be compact as well as closely matching their thermal properties, to meet the thermomechanical requirements. It also features two flexible cables for electrical connection and precision alignment of the sensors in the FLORIS focal plane array.

Information from FLEX will help scientists improve their understanding of the way carbon moves between plants and the atmosphere, and how photosynthesis affects carbon and water cycles. It will also lead to better insight into plant health and stress. This is of particular relevance since the growing global population is placing increasing demands on the production of food and animal feed.

Lockheed Martin to build space scope focused on vegetation and carbon

In a related development plan, scientists are set to gain greater understanding of the Earth’s carbon cycle and vegetation health via a new NASA instrument being built by defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

The Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB) mission will use an advanced infrared spectrograph mounted on a commercial geosynchronous satellite. The project is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Berrien Moore at the University of Oklahoma.

“We have the right skills to make GeoCARB a success, bringing together our expertise in infrared sensing and hosted payloads,” said Gary Kushner, the Lockheed Martin instrument program manager. “Through our collaboration with Oklahoma, NASA and Colorado State University, we can deliver better information about our planet’s health.”

ECOPTIKCeNing Optics Co LtdIridian Spectral TechnologiesHÜBNER PhotonicsCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationAlluxa
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