DECMEC – Detector and Mechanism Controller

Mission: Herschel-Planck
Application: Control Electronics
Life: Launched in 2009

Instrument Description

DECMEC, part of the Photodetecting Array Camera and Spectrometer
(PACS) electronics, guarantees on the one hand the control of the detector arrays, temperature sensors and mechanisms and on the other hand delivers science data to the Signal Processing Unit. DECMEC successfully performed during the HERSCHEL-PLANCK mission (launched in 2009).

The PACS instrument, mounted on the HERSCHEL Space Observatory, is designed for imaging photometry and low-and medium-resolution spectroscopy in the wavelength region ranging from 60 to 210 μm. The main users are researchers working on circumstellar physics and star/galaxy formations.

OIP, as subcontractor for CSL [B], was responsible for the design and the development of the DECMEC electronic unit. This project was performed under ESA/PRODEX contract.



The ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory had the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. At 3.5-metres in diameter the mirror collected long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. In addition, Herschel was the only space observatory to cover a spectral range from the far infrared to sub-millimetre.
The Herschel scientific instrument complement comprises three instruments, two cameras (PACS and SPIRE) with additional imaging spectroscopy capabilities, and a very high-resolution heterodyne spectrometer (HIFI).

Herschel specialised in collecting light from objects in the Solar System as well as the Milky Way and even extragalatic objects billions of light-years away, such as newborn galaxies, and was charged with four primary areas of investigation:

OIP’s Participation

OIP, as subcontractor to Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL, B), was responsible for the design and development of the DECMEC electronic unit.

OIP got involved at the start of phase C where the EM design made by CSL had to upgrade into a flight worthy design, including the design of a support box. At the end of phase D, OIP had delivered an Electrical Qualification Model (EQM), a Qualification Model (QM), a Proto-Flight Model (PFM) and a Flight Spare kit.

OIP was responsible for the solderassembly of all electronic cards and the design of the Power Supply Unit and Backplane. Over 20’000 components were assembled for the Flight Model


The DEC/MEC was delivered to CSL (Liège, B) mid 2007, where it was subjected to environmental testing prior to delivery to Max-Planck Institute (MPE, Garching, D). The unit performed well during ground testing and in-flight operation. DEC/MEC was integrated on PACS at MPE, which was then integrated in the Herschel Spacecraft.

Herschel was successfully launched on 14 May 2009, by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher, from the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana. Herschel was launched together with ESA’s Planck spacecraft. The two spacecraft separated within 30 minutes after launch and proceeded independently to different orbits about the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (L2). Exactly 1 month after the launch (14 June 2009), the observatory opened its eyes and on Earth we received the first sneak preview of a Whirl Pool Galaxy (M51).

PACS and DEC/MEC have been performing routine operations until February/March 2013 when Herschel will run out of helium, precluding any further observing. With more than 4 years of operational life, the instrument did perform well. Only because the Observatory ran out of Helium, the operations had to be stopped.



OIP acted as subcontractor to CSL and had SPUR Electron (UK) as most important partner for the solderassembly of the electronic cards.

The project was funded by ESA/PRODEX.


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