Flight photon counting electron multiplying charge coupled device development for the Roman Space Telescope coronagraph instrument

Morrissey, Patrick; Harding, Leon K.; Bush, Nathan L.; Bottom, Michael; Nemati, Bijan; Daniel, Andrew; Jun, Bongim; Martinez-Sierra, Luz Maria; Desai, Niyati; Barry, Dave; Davis, Rhonda-Topaz; Demers, Richard T.; Hall, David J.; Holland, Andrew; Turner, Pete and Shortt, Brian (2023). Flight photon counting electron multiplying charge coupled device development for the Roman Space Telescope coronagraph instrument. Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems, 9(1), article no. 016003.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JATIS.9.1.016003


We describe the development of flight electron multiplying charge coupled devices (EMCCDs) for the photon-counting camera system of a coronagraph instrument (CGI) to be flown on the 2.4-m Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Roman is a NASA flagship mission that will study dark energy and dark matter, and search for exoplanets with a planned launch in the mid-2020s. The CGI is intended to demonstrate technologies required for high-contrast imaging and spectroscopy of exoplanets, such as high-speed wavefront sensing and pointing control, adaptive optics with deformable mirrors, and ultralow noise signal detection with photon counting, visible-sensitive (350 to 950 nm) detectors. The camera system is at the heart of these demonstrations and is required to sense both faint and bright targets (10−4 − 107 counts-s−1) adaptively at up to 1000 frames-s−1 to provide the necessary feedback to the instrument control loops. The system includes two identical cameras, one to demonstrate faint light scientific capability, and the other to provide high-speed real-time sensing of instrument pointing disturbances. Our program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California, United States) has evaluated the low-signal performance of radiation-damaged commercial EMCCD sensors and used those measurements as a basis for targeted radiation hardening modifications developed in partnership with the Open University (Milton Keynes, United Kingdom) and Teledyne-e2v (Chelmsford, United Kingdom). A pair of EMCCDs with test features was then developed and their low signal performance is reported here. The program has resulted in the development of flight version of the EMCCD with low signal performance improved by more than a factor of three over the commercial one after exposure to 2.6 × 109 protons-cm−2 (10 MeV equivalent). The flight EMCCD sensors are contributed by ESA through a contract with Teledyne-e2v (Chelmsford, United Kingdom). We will describe the program requirements, sensor design, test results and metrics used to evaluate photon counting performance.

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