CCD image sensors

Thales Alenia Space has awarded Chelmsford-based e2v a contract to supply charged-couple device image sensors to be used in ESA’s Sentinel-3 Earth observation satellite.


Thales Alenia Space has awarded Chelmsford-based e2v a contract to supply charged-couple device (CCD) image sensors to be used in ESA’s Sentinel-3 Earth observation satellite.

Sentinel-3 is part of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, a satellite network designed to deliver environmental and security services in Europe. GMES is led by the European Commission and will provide information to steer future environmental policies.



ESA is responsible for the Space component of GMES, of which the five families of Sentinel missions are key components.

The sensor, CCD55-20, is a high-performance, back-illuminated frame transfer CCD image sensor optimised for hyperspectral imaging, meaning it collects information across the visible and invisible spectrum.



This optimisation includes the use of a ‘gated dump drain’ allowing the readout of selected image lines and the dumping of unwanted data. It also includes the use of graded thickness anti-reflection coating, giving the minimum possible reflection from the silicon surface for all wavelengths of interest.

Sentinel-3 will be used to study sea surface topography, sea and land surface temperature, ocean colour and land colour with a high level of accuracy, providing the European Union and its member states with crucial data. It will carry an advanced radar altimeter and a multi-channel optical imaging instrument. The launch of the first Sentinel-3 satellite is planned for 2012.