ESA's Venus Express commenced its orbit of Venus on April 11, five months after its launch from Kazakhstan. An e2v startracking device incorporated into the spacecraft's startracker camera has been scanning the stars as it travels, in order to help guide the craft to Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor. The imaging device in the startracker will next help to pinpoint targets to support the study of the chemistry and composition of Venus' hot, high pressure atmosphere. Data collected across approximately 500 Earth days will provide detail on the planet's surface and history, and should help scientists to understand more about climate change on Earth.
A similar sensor also helped ESA's Mars Express to reach the Red Planet, which it has been orbiting for over two years. The first of several probes to set off for Mars in 2004, Mars Express was Europe's first solo planetary mission. On April 10, images taken from the spacecraft illustrated a 143 mile wide impact crater on Mars that resembled a ‘happy face'.
e2v CCD sensors in NASA's HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) telescopic camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), captured their first test images of Mars on March 24, 2006 -- two weeks after the spacecraft entered its orbit around the Red Planet. The first colour images were captured on April 6. There are 25 e2v CCD image sensors on the NASA Mars probe, 14 of which are time delay integrated devices arranged in a long imager format, in order to generate the high image width required. MRO is currently orbiting Mars and will gradually reduce its orbit over the next six months. Once it has reached its optimum location, it will commence scientific investigations, relying on the e2v sensors to provide images from an orbiting spacecraft, to help determine the Red Planet's water and ice history. The detailed reconnaissance will also enable NASA to identify suitable landing zones for future planned robotic explorers, and to establish whether the planet would support future human outposts.
Closer to home, e2v CCDs are currently circling the Earth with the environmental observation satellite, ESA's Envisat. e2v technologies supplied 16 CCDs for the satellite that launched in 2002. The imaging devices are playing a key role in the MERIS (MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) and GOMOS (Global Ozone Monitoring by Occultation of Stars) instruments -- two of the main instruments designed to examine the effects of global warming and oceanography via data collection on atmospheric chemistry, pollution and ozone hole, the oceans and land surfaces. The MERIS CCDs are aiding environmental studies, in particular the study of ocean matter, while the GOMOS devices are helping to monitor the Earth's ozone layer as a means to understand phenomena like global warming. Envisat was originally planned to stay in orbit for five years. However, its operational life has been extended to 2010, on the basis of its performance to date. ESA is currently planning a replacement for MERIS when it eventually has to be decommissioned and plans to replace it under the new Sentinel 3 program.
SOURCE: e2v technologies