ATLAS Photon Counting Electronics engineering models delivered to NASA

Our Electrical Engineering Team delivered the ICESat-2 ATLAS Photon Counting Electronics (PCE) Engineering Model hardware to NASA GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center). The sophisticated electronic hardware will allow for full functional testing of the instrument in preparation for flight hardware delivery.

The PCE hardware resides in the Main Electronics Box (MEB) of the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) instrument and is comprised of three identical circuit boards each responsible for 20 channels of the 60 channel system.

Based on Sigma Space’s highly successful 3D LiDAR products, the PCE’s novel timing electronics have been customized for the ATLAS instrument and for space flight using robust design techniques.  Thanks to our advanced photon counting technology, ATLAS will perform highly accurate three-dimensional measurements of the Earth’s surface and structures, using low powered laser and single-photon sensitive detectors.

Sigma Space designed the PCE hardware and has supported all testing, reviews, and documentation related to the PCE prototype and engineering models, and is currently developing the flight model hardware. “The completion of this milestone allows us to work more with the software and algorithm teams at NASA to validate the performance of the instrument” said Ed Leventhal, Principal Electrical Engineer at Sigma Space, (pictured above on the right) “and move forward towards the flight hardware delivery.”

The ATLAS instrument will be installed on the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) spacecraft.  The ICESat-2 spacecraft is scheduled for launch in 2016 with the mission of studying polar ice sheet activity, sea ice, vegetation canopy, and how these characteristics affect climate conditions.

Sigma Space has been working hand-in-hand with the NASA GSFC flight software and algorithm development teams to ensure smooth hardware/software integration, debug, and support.

Lanham, November 2013

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