COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) hardware using an industry-standard Camera Link interface is proposed to accomplish the task of designing, building, assembling, and testing electronics for an airborne spectrometer that would be low-cost, but sustain the required data speed and volume. The focal plane electronics were designed to support that hardware standard. Analysis was done to determine how these COTS electronics could be interfaced with space-qualified camera electronics. Interfaces available for spaceflight application do not support the industry standard Camera Link interface, but with careful design, COTS EGSE (electronics ground support equipment), including camera interfaces and camera simulators, can still be used.
The Camera Link data path is expandable. By adding another pair of interface circuits, and five more LVDS (low-voltage differential signaling) pairs (the “medium” Camera Link interface), the data rate can be doubled (4,080 Mbps). By adding a third pair of interface circuits and five more LVDS pairs (the “full” Camera Link interface), data rates of 64 bits × 85 MHz = 5,440 Mbps (over 5 Gbps) can be realized. The 28-bit commercial Camera Link interface is backwards compatible with the 21-bit space-qualified Channel Link interface. With proper circuit design and EGSE programming, the space-qualified chip set can be used to implement a compatible Camera Link interface using COTS Camera Link EGSE. COTS EGSE in the form of instrument (camera) simulators is also readily available. This allows easy, early checkout of the EGSE and flight systems.