Many technologies have become so advanced that they've been miniaturized to take up less space and weigh less. That's what happened to detector controls and data conversion electronics on the James Webb Space Telescope being built by Northrop Grumman.
These components, called a "SIDECAR" have been miniaturized from a volume of about one cubic meter (35.3 cubic feet) to a small integrated circuit.
SIDECAR ASIC means "System for Image Digitization, Enhancement, Control And Retrieval Application Specific Integrated Circuit." This tiny advanced low-noise, low-power microprocessor-based control chip was designed by Teledyne Imaging Sensors, Thousand Oaks, Calif. to convert the analog signals (which is what television stations currently broadcast) into digital signals (which television stations will broadcast starting Feb. 2009). Like televisions, the Webb telescope is getting several of those converter boxes." Digital signals can be easily transmitted and stored.
There are also several benefits to the extreme miniaturization of the SIDECAR. Further, it's about the size of a half-dollar and can do the same job as an electronics box weighing 20 pounds. It's smaller weight also makes it easier to launch.
"In addition, a smaller SIDECAR enables the ASIC to be physically close to the detector it is controlling. This close proximity minimizes the distance the analog signal travels, thus reducing the noise of the system," said Matt Greenhouse, Integrated Science Instrument Module Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
The three instruments that will use the SIDECAR on the Webb telescope are the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), and the Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS). These instruments all use highly sensitive infrared detectors to study distant stars, planets, and
|Contact: Rob Gutro|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center