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SIDECAR ASIC microprocessor-controlled chip
Teledyne Imaging Sensors
Camarillo, CA

The electronics that will convert analog signals to digital signals on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), being built by Northrop Grumman and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, have been miniaturized to take up less space and to weigh less. The electronics also will provide better images of objects in space when they are sent back to scientists on Earth.

The electronic components on the JWST are called SIDECAR ASIC (System for Image Digitization, Enhancement, Control And Retrieval Application Specific Integrated Circuit). The SIDECAR, designed by Teledyne Imaging Sensors, has been miniaturized from a volume of about 35 cubic feet down to a small circuit that fits in your hand. The SIDECAR will act as a “converter box” for the JWST, enabling analog signals to be converted to digital, which are easily transmitted and stored.

SIDECAR is a lownoise, low-power microprocessor- based control chip that is about the size of a half-dollar and can do the same job as an electronics box weighing 20 pounds. As the name implies, it sits next to the detector like a sidecar on a motorcycle. The close proximity to the detector minimizes the distance the analog signal travels, reducing the system noise.

The three JWST instruments that will use the SIDECAR are the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), and the Fine Guidance Sensors. The instruments will use highly sensitive infrared detectors to study planets, galaxies, and stars. The SIDECAR is being tested in the University of Hawaii’s 2.2-meter telescope, collecting data on the performance of the chips.

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