Solar Orbiter Launch

Feb 10th was a nice day for me. I woke up early in the morning to watch ESA’s video stream of the launch of Solar Orbiter from Cape Canaveral. This ESA mission explores the physics and behavior of our Sun. We worked on the image sensor detectors for two out of the ten instruments on board when at CMOSIS (now AMS). Extreme UV Imager (EUI) uses a 3K x 3K BSI image sensor with high-dynamic range pixels on 10 um pitch, operated in the deep UV (121 nm, Ly-α line) and extreme UV (16,5 nm) wavelength bands. Scientists and engineers from the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB, Brussels) and Centre Spacial de Liege (CSL, Liege) led the instrument development, and we were in charge of detector development from CMOSIS, now AMS in Antwerp. So this was a true Belgian innovation. It was a long journey that brought us quite a few innovations. We’ve published along the way on some of the techniques of the high dynamic range pixels and the issues we’ve been facing with backside illumination. Our friends from ROB and CSL also reported on extensive characterization of the detectors and the technology development prototypes.

The detectors for the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) were developed in a collaboration with Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Göttingen, Germany. These are 2K x 2K imagers with 10 um pixels, where the main issue was to deliver sufficient full well charge. Close to our Sun there is plenty of light… Also MPI extensively reported on their detector qualification tests, e.g. for radiation tolerance.

For us the long development journey is over but of course for the instrument scientists the work is starting only now. To our detectors, I would say “please enjoy the ride and deliver great science data”. It was very nice that our team could made made a small contribution to the new insights that this mission can deliver.