The detector controls and data conversion electronics components on the James Webb Space Telescope - collectively called a "SIDECAR" - have been miniaturized from a volume of about one cubic meter to a small integrated circuit. SIDECAR ASIC (System for Image Digitization, Enhancement, Control, And Retrieval Application Specific Integrated Circuit) is an advanced, low-noise, low-power, microprocessor- based control chip. About the size of a half-dollar, the SIDECAR can do the same job as an electronics box weighing 20 pounds.
The three instruments that will use the SIDECAR on the Webb telescope are the Near Infrared Camera, the Near Infrared Spectrograph, and the Fine Guidance Sensors. These instruments all use highly sensitive infrared detectors to study distant stars, planets, and galaxies. The SIDECAR will sit next to each of these detectors like a sidecar on a motorcycle, and the microprocessor will control these infrared detectors.
The SIDECAR will convert the analog signals from the infrared detectors into digital data which is much more robust and easier to transmit. Without the SIDECAR, the analog signals might be corrupted in transmission and the science images would be lost or damaged.