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VLWIR Sensors for Detecting and Tracking Near-Earth Asteroids, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

An important NASA mission is to detect, count and track near-earth asteroids for a variety of reasons including the hazards of collisions with our planet. Such asteroids are mostly dark, small and cold (~ 200K); so they are best detected in the very longwave infrared (VLWIR) wavelength of ~ 16 microns where they glow brightest. To accomplish this, we propose a new cooled VLWIR focal plane array (FPA) of antimony-based strained layer superlattices (SLS) that will leverage the significant advances in quantum efficiency (QE) and dark current recently achieved by QmagiQ in SLS FPAs with cutoff wavelengths upto 12 microns. Compared to the incumbent mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) technology, SLS promises comparable QE, lower dark current, and much higher array uniformity and operability. Most importantly, it offers superb image stability - which will eliminate the need for frequent non-uniformity correction when using MCT. In Phase I, we will develop and deliver a prototype FPA with 16 micron cutoff. In Phase II, we will increase FPA format and deliver a camera to NASA for evaluation. More »

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