Is the x-ray sCMOS technology used in labs ready for space?

New x-ray imagers for Class-D space missions

Part 2 of 3

Readiness of Commercial X-Ray Technology for Space

Terrestrial sCMOS x-ray detector
Existing terrestrial sCMOS x-ray detector (blue) being evaluated at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s NSLS-II

By leveraging the rapid development cycle of commercially available terrestrial sensors, the cost per detector for smaller missions will decrease. But are they ready for space? That depends on the existing system selected. For this project NASA has selected a commercial off-the-shelf scientific soft x-ray CMOS imager. It includes a larger area array with smaller pixels, meeting the size and cost requirements for small scale space projects needing to optimize the focusing distance to obtain sub arc-second resolution.

Proving Space Readiness

The project funded by NASA will evaluate the design and space readiness of the x-ray camera system, specifically targeting Class-D space missions. The commercial sCMOS imager already has several characteristics that are beneficial for space applications:

  • Has > 90% quantum efficiency at 100 – 1000 eV
  • Acquires images at 48 Hz
  • Has 11 μm pixels
Flange-mounted sCMOs
Example of flange-mounted sCMOS

This makes it a good candidate for the targeted in-space astrophysics applications. In collaboration with researchers at the MIT Kavli Institute polarimetry beamline, the new sCMOS detector will be tested with specific wavelengths and under operational conditions relevant to NASA missions. These include thermal effects, noise, quantum efficiency, radiation damage, and vibration testing.

Once this work is completed, a development plan will be put in place that provides a more flexible design of the soft x-ray detector for the astrophysics community at a lower cost. Commercial prototype development is expected to be ready for applications testing at the end of Phase II.

Be sure to read the last part of this article, where we will discuss both the space and terrestrial applications of the new x-ray sensors being developed now.

Experiment chamber of Coherent Soft X-Ray Scattering (CSX) beamline
The experiment chamber of the Coherent Soft X-ray Scattering (CSX) beamline at NSLS-II before pump down and testing with the sCMOS camera.

The experiment chamber of the Coherent Soft X-ray Scattering (CSX) beamline at NSLS-II before pump down and testing with the Sydor sCMOS camera.