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FPA-CEB – Focal Plane Assembly (FPA) and Control Electronic Box (CEB) for the Coronograph onboard ASPIICS to be flown on Proba-3. [Proba-3]

Proba-3 is a mission devoted to the in-orbit demonstration (IOD) of precise formation flying techniques and technologies for future ESA missions.

Proba-3 will fly ASPIICS (Association of Spacecraft for Polarimetric and Imaging Investigation of the Corona of the Sun), a Coronograph, as primary payload, which makes use of the formation flying technique to form a giant coronagraph capable of producing a nearly perfect eclipse allowing to observe the sun corona closer to the rim than ever before.

Capturing the Sun’s corona

The Coronagraph is distributed over the two satellites flying in formation (~150m apart). The so called coronagraph satellite carries the “detector” and the so called occulter satellite carries the sun occulter disc. The detector is part of the ASPIICS

OIP, as subcontractor to Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL, B), is responsible for the design and development of the FPA (Focal Plane Assembly) and CEB (Camera Electronics Box) units.

Creating an artificial Solar eclipse

Proba-3 is an ESA mission devoted to the in-orbit demonstration (IOD) of precise formation flying techniques and technologies for future ESA missions. In order to complete the end-to-end validation of the Formation Flying technologies and following the practice of previous Proba missions, Proba-3 includes a primary payload that exploits the features of the demonstration.

In this case it is a sun coronagraph, ASPIICS (Association of Spacecraft for Polarimetric and Imaging Investigation of the Corona of the Sun), a giant 150 m coronagraph capable of producing a nearly perfect eclipse allowing to observe the sun corona closer to the rim than ever before or in any planned mission. The Coronagraph is distributed over the two satellites flying in formation (~150m apart). The so called “Coronagraph” satellite and the so called “Occulter” satellite. The latter carries the Sun’s occulter disc.

ASPIICS

ASPIICS will be the first space coronagraph to cover the range of radial distances between 1.08 and 3 solar radii (from the solar center) where the magnetic field plays a crucial role in the coronal dynamics, thus providing continuous observational conditions very close to those during a total solar eclipse, but without the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The giant coronagraph will be capable of producing a nearly perfect eclipse allowing to observe the sun corona closer to the rim than ever before.  ASPIICS will thus observe the corona during the maximum of solar activity. To image this a detector with supporting structure (=focal plane assembly) is needed.

OIP is responsible for the design of the FPA (Focal Plane Assembly) and the necessary camera electronics CEB (Camera Electronics Box) subunits.

Keywords

Solution: Payload Instrumentation

Type: Focal Plane Assembly and Camera Electronics

Application field: Science (sun watcher)

Mission: Proba-3

Life: in development

FPA – Focal Plane Assembly

The Focal Plane Assembly (FPA) is located at the back of the telescope optics and is housing the front-end of the electronics of the Coronagraph camera. It consists of an APS image sensor, the proximity electronics of the APS, a harness from the FPA to the Camera Electronic Box (CEB), the FPA mechanical parts, and a radiator and its thermal strap.
The newly-proposed image sensor is a CMOS APS, manufactured by CMOSIS (B), developed for the PHI instrument of Solar Orbiter.

The sensor is configurable through a SPI line. The pixel array of the sensor requires to be clocked externally. The output of the sensor is analogue. The sensor is powered from the secondary voltage of the CCB (Camara Control Box). The APS proximity electronics is a front-end printed circuit board aimed at supporting the image sensor electrically but also mechanically. It contains elements for biasing (capacitors, resistors), decoupling (capacitors), and communication to the CEB (drivers, buffers).

A radiator is used to cool down passively the FPA so that the sensor can operate in a lower temperature range for noise reduction purposes. The radiator is connected to the mechanical housing by means of a thermal strap.

 

CEB – Camera Electronic Box

The Camera Electronic Box (CEB) is dedicated to command / control the FPA and contains all related steering electronics. It interfaces with the spacecraft’s Coronagraph Control Box (CCB).

The CEB electronics contains the following electronic functions: FPGA to control the detector, buffering (conditioning) analogue video signal, Analogue-to-Digital converter (30MSPS), housekeeping circuitry, voltage regulators, LVDS drivers and receivers, memory (optional), connector to interface FPA, connectors to interface CCB. The SpaceWire interface in the firmware for the CEB&FPA read out electronics will consist of the space wire CODEC IP core and will be integrated into the FPGA.

Mission

Proba-3 is an ESA mission devoted to the in-orbit demonstration (IOD) of precise formation flying techniques and technologies for future ESA missions.

Proba-3 includes a primary payload that exploits the features of the demonstration. In this case it is a sun coronagraph, ASPIICS, a giant 150 m coronagraph capable of producing a nearly perfect eclipse allowing to observe the sun corona closer to the rim than ever before or in any planned mission. The Coronagraph is distributed over the two satellites flying in formation (~150m apart).

Proba-3 will be a laboratory in space to validate strategies, guidance, navigation and control and other algorithms previously tried in ground simulators. These techniques and simulators developed in the frame of Proba-3 will then be available more widely, becoming instrumental in the preparation of future missions.

Proba-3 marks the next step in formation flying. Its two satellites will maintain formation to millimetre and arc second precision at distances of 150m or more. In effect the pair will be flying as a virtual giant satellite. And this will be achieved autonomously, without relying on guidance from the ground. Two small satellites will be launched together  into a highly elliptical orbit and will then separate. After a short preparatory period the two satellites will be separated and injected into a safe relative tandem orbit. The commissioning period will include demonstration of the mission’s Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre, ensuring they can be left safely in an orbit with no chance of collision or running away from each other. Normal operations will then include both formation flying manoeuvres and coronagraph observations.

OIP’s Participation

OIP, as subcontractor to CSL, is responsible for the design and development of the ASPIICS Focal Plane Assembly (FPA) & Camera Electronic Box (CEB) during phase C/D.

Status

The project is far advanced in the phase D, meaning that the flight units are being finalized and delivered.

OIP delivered the FM FPA subunit to CSL in december 2020. The CEB PFM is targetted for spring 2021.

In the past OIP completed several models for FPA (STM, DM and QM) subunit and CEB (STM, EM and DM) subunits.

Partners

OIP is a subcontractor to Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL, B) and works together with AE-Electronics (AEE, RO) for development of the electronic boards.

The project is funded by BELSPO through ESA.

ASPIICS is built by a European consortium led by CSL, including more than twenty partners from seven countries (Belgium, Poland, Romania, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and The Czech Republic) under the auspices of the ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) and the Czech Prodex Programme. The expected launch date is in 2021.
Dr Andrei Zhukov of the Royal Observatory of Belgium is appointed as Principal Investigator for the ASPIICS instrument.

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