March 31, 2021

SuperCam and its super sensors

The French Space Agency (CNES) has reported the first images obtained on Mars using the Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) of the SuperCam instrument (the French contribution to NASA JPL PERSEVERANCE Rover) during the CNES Press Conference. The instrument provides high resolution (<70 µrad per pixel) color images for planetologists.

The RMI was born from a fruitful collaboration between 3DPLUS company and CNES. The French Space Agency provided its expertise in CMOS image sensors and 3DPLUS brought its knowledge in digital electronics and 3D electronic integration. The camera has been developed in only 4 years, from the very beginning ideas, and the delivery of the flight models.

CASPEX Camera for "Color CMOS Camera for Space Exploration"

The image sensor used is a CMV4000 (4Mpxls, with RGB color filters and microlenses) from AMS CMOSIS qualified by CNES. The French Space Agency started to work on the CMV image sensor family in 2011. Since then, CNES has demonstrated through radiation effect studies and intensive qualification work that using COTS sensors for space scientific missions can be reliable and cost-effective. Especially, the radiation hardness of pinned photodiode, Bayer color filter arrays, and per-pixel microlenses has been found to be compatible with Mars exploration mission requirements.

Supercam's RMI mosaic and calibration targets

The findings related to these years of research have been shared with the community through publications and presentations during the Radiation effects on solid-state optoelectronic detectors workshop hold in Toulouse (France) every two years since 2012 (organized by Optic & Optoelectronic COMET).

SuperCam in situation

Cédric Virmontois, alumni from ISAE-SUPAERO, is in charge of the RMI at CNES. For more than a decade, ISAE-SUPAERO / CNES PhD students have been participating in the fundamental study of radiation effects on CMOS image sensors. Through this fruitful collaboration, scientific and technical advances are regularly published in international scientific journals such as IEEE journals.