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25 March 2009

e2v CCD image sensors equipping the Thales Alenia Space instrument for the CNES Pleiades Earth observation satellite deliver performance that exceeds expectations

For the French version of this press release, please click here.

The e2v CCD (Charge Coupled Device) image sensors developed under CNES contract and selected by Thales Alenia Space to equip the high-resolution (HR) optical imaging instrument, for integration into the CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) Pleiades Earth observation satellite (which includes two e2v device types for panchromatic and multispectral imaging), have delivered a performance that exceeds the original specification.

After environmental testing, the optical and radiometric (image quality) performance of the image sensors was found to have exceeded expectations, with the Instrument MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) and signal to noise ratio 1.5 times better than the original specification.

The 200kg, high-resolution instrument includes, for its panchromatic focal plane, five e2v CCD98-50s, each with 6,000 pixels; therefore giving 30,000 pixels per line. In addition these CCDs have TDI (Time Delay Integration) functionality to enable them to capture high resolution images (70 cm on ground resolution) and are back-thinned to improve sensitivity.

To achieve the performance requirements specified, the CCD was designed with the following features:

  • A pixel size and pitch of 13μm square
  • Four phase parallel transfer electrode structure, implemented in four levels of polysilicon
  • Longitudinal anti-blooming structures in every pixel, optimised for back-illumination to maintain 100% fill factor
  • 6,000 active pixels per line, with a maximum of 20 TDI lines
  • Selectable number of active TDI lines in flight
  • 10 serial readout registers, each with an optimised output amplifier, each output therefore serving 600 pixels per line
  • Custom Aluminium Nitride package, with anti-reflective (AR) coated window
  • In common with most e2v image sensors, the Pleiades TDI sensor is designed with back-illumination for high quantum efficiency and sensitivity

The Pleiades satellite also includes a multispectral focal plane, which utilises an e2v CCD sensor type AT71554, with the following main features:

  • 4 photosensitive lines
  • 1,500 photosensitive elements per line
  • Pixel size 52 x 52 µm
  • PRNU (Photo Response Non Uniformity) 1%
  • Non-linearity: 1%

The Pleiades project is part of ORFEO (Optic and Radar Federated Earth Observation system), a joint French-Italian initiative by the countries' national space agencies CNES and Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), marking a major technological advance in optical Earth observation systems. The two Pleiades observation satellites are scheduled for launch in early 2010 and 2011 respectively and will orbit the Earth, capturing very high resolution panchromatic and multi-spectral images from an altitude of 694km, for a period of at least five years.

Didier Dantes, Head of Imaging Chain Department, Thales Alenia Space, Cannes says “The e2v CCD performance for the Pleiades optical high-resolution imaging instruments offers enhanced resolution of 70 cm over a wide swath (20 km), after fusion, between the visible and near infrared bands.”

Alain Bardoux, Head of Detection Chain Department from CNES said “Thanks to the high photo response achieved via the back-thinned technology, and the e2v sensors readout rate of up to 66 MHz on 10 outputs, it is possible to meet the signal to noise requirement with only 10 TDI lines selected, without any satellite slowing.”

Brian McAllister, General Manager of Space & Scientific Imaging at e2v said “We worked very closely with Thales and CNES to develop and produce these sensors. It is very rewarding that the performance exceeds original specifications and opens new possibilities for Earth observation applications.”

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Jessica Broom      Tel: + 44 (0) 1 245 453 607



e2v’s objective is to be a global leader in the design and supply of specialised components and sub-systems that enable the world’s leading systems companies to deliver innovative solutions for medical and science, aerospace and defence, and commercial and industrial markets.

e2v has 4 major product groups:

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For the year ended 31 March 2008, e2v achieved sales of £205m and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. In October 2008 e2v acquired QP semiconductor, a leading US-based designer and supplier of specialty semiconductor components used in military and aerospace applications, establishing e2v’s first US manufacturing base.

The Company is headquartered in the United Kingdom and has approximately 1800 employees in six production facilities across Europe and North America. e2v also operates a global network of sales and technical support offices, supported by local distributors and resellers.

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