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April 2013  •  Volume 6 Number 1

LSST Camera Team Successfully Tests Electronics Chain

Figure 1: "Vertical Slice Test" hardware at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL)

A far-flung team of LSST researchers has recorded a significant milestone in the development of the Raft Tower Modules, the core component of the Camera focal plane. For the first time, a pre-production prototype of the 4K x 4K science CCD has been controlled and read out by a full “vertical slice” of the complete electronics chain. The compact and low-power front end electronics is made possible by a custom-designed CMOS chip set designed by engineers at the IN2P3 labs in France and at the University of Tennessee. The other components of the electronics chain in this mini-systems test come from SLAC (data acquisition system), Harvard (digitizer boards), the University of Pennsylvania (front end analog boards), IN2P3 (firmware), and BNL (cryostat, optics, systems integration, control software).

Leading up to this demonstration were many months spent designing, fabricating, and testing the individual components. The CCD, in particular, has been the focus of a seven-year development program with several manufacturers. The custom ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) development started in 2007, and LSST will be the first astronomical camera to use ASIC-based readout. This gives LSST the highly-parallel readout structure that enables the fast cadence on the sky, and at the same time provides a readout chain compact and low-power enough to be housed in a compact enclosure in the shadow of the sensor array.

The current test underway at BNL (Figure 1) involves a single CCD in a small cryostat and a 16-channel readout system at room temperature. The next steps will involve detailed analysis and optimization of the performance to meet the stringent requirements of LSST. In the months to come, the work will continue with several planned revisions to the chips and boards. Then the team plans to expand the scope of the tests to include multiple CCDs, more electronics channels, enhanced software, and tests of the integrated thermal management system that maintains the CCD at a temperature of -100C. By this phased development approach we will be able to exercise the full functionality of the science raft well in advance of building the first production unit.

Article written by Andrei Nomerotski, Joe Mead, and Paul O’Connor, BNL


LSST is a public-private partnership. Funding for design and development activity comes from the National Science Foundation, private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other LSSTC Institutional Members:

Adler Planetarium; Argonne National Laboratory; Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL); California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Chile; Cornell University; Drexel University; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; George Mason University; Google, Inc.; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Institut de Physique Nucleaire et de Physique des Particules (IN2P3); Johns Hopkins University; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) – Stanford University; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Inc.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); National Optical Astronomy Observatory; National Radio Astronomy Observatory; Princeton University; Purdue University; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Rutgers University; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Space Telescope Science Institute; Texas A & M University; The Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; The Pennsylvania State University; The University of Arizona; University of California at Davis; University of California at Irvine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington; Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities

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