Sofradir IR detectors head to planet Mars

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Several of Sofradir’s IR detectors are among the instruments onboard the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars probe that is on its way to the Red Planet.

The joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars 2016 mission, carrying the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) atmosphere sniffer and the Schiaparelli lander, launched on March 14. It is expected to travel 496 million kilometers and arrive on Mars on October 19.  Its mission is to address unsolved mysteries of the planet's atmosphere that could indicate present-day geological – or even biological – activity, and to demonstrate the landing technologies needed for future missions to Mars. This would include ExoMars 2018, a rover planned for on-ground deployment on Mars...


Trace Gas Orbiter Instruments

The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) carries scientific instruments to detect trace gases with an improved accuracy - 1000 better - compared to previous measurements from orbit and ground-based measurements, according to the ESA. The main objective of the TGO mission is to detect methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes on Mars.

The TGO is made up of four suites of science instruments; two of which contain Sofradir IR detectors. These are the ACS instrument (Atmospheric Chemistry Suite) and the NOMAD instrument (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery), both are comprised of three spectrometers each and cover complementary wavelengths.

The NOMAD instrument, operating in the 2.2µm and 4.3µm waveband, will take a detailed inventory of Mars’ atmospheric trace gases by analyzing the light reflected by the atmosphere and by solar occultation. Two Sofradir IR detectors flight models are integrated in the NOMAD instrument (MARS MW detector with adapted optics). A similar model of Sofradir’s MARS MW was deployed in ESA’s Venus Express mission in 2005.

The ACS instrument equipped with three infrared spectrometers is responsible for analyzing the chemistry and structure of Mars’ atmosphere, in particular detecting methane. The ACS-MIR spectrometer also operates with a Sofradir IR detector (SCORPIO MW detector with adapted optics in the 2.3µm – 4.6µm waveband).

ExoMars is the ninth satellite launched in space carrying Sofradir’s detector, bringing the total number of Sofradir infrared detectors deployed in space to 23. This achievement reinforces the company’s industrial leadership in supplying highly reliable infrared detectors.