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Tiny Microchips Enable Extreme Science


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The application-specific integrated circuits will measure the speed, energy, and position of particles and photons in space with incredible accuracy.

Researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration have developed a family of application-specific integrated circuits that will measure the composition of Jupiter's magnetosphere.

Credit: Joy Ng/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have developed a family of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) designed to measure particles in space.

The tiny, radiation-resistant microchips are an important part of NASA's Juno spacecraft, which entered Jupiter's orbit on July 4.

The microchips aboard Juno are part of the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI), a state-of-the-art device that will measure the composition of the huge magnetic system surrounding the planet, known as the magnetosphere. The ASICs measure the speed, energy, and position of particles and photons in space with time accuracy down to a fraction of a billionth of a second. Without these chips, satellite electronics would be much heavier and require substantially more shielding and power.

The chips will help researchers understand Jupiter's environment and how it was formed and continues to evolve.

ASICs have been incorporated in many other NASA missions to study a diverse range of space environments from close to the sun to the heart of Earth's radiation belts to the edge of the solar system.

However, the Juno ASICs were specially developed to be radiation-hardened, enabling them to withstand the harsh, radiative environment of Jupiter's magnetosphere.

From NASA News
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