One of the things that separates Apogee Imaging Systems from our competitors is our unique ability and experience to support research missions above earth's atmosphere.

We are proud to announce that we have delivered the latest of these special imaging systems to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to be used for the Hi-C Solar Research project. The launch is scheduled for 1pm, July 11th.


HI-C Sounding Rocket Mission Has Finest Mirrors Ever Made
On July 11, NASA scientists will launch into space the highest resolution solar telescope ever to observe the solar corona, the million degree outer solar atmosphere. The instrument, called HI-C for High Resolution Coronal Imager, will fly aboard a Black Brant sounding rocket to be launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The mission will have just 620 seconds for its flight, spending about half of that time high enough that Earth's atmosphere will not block ultraviolet rays from the sun. By looking at a specific range of UV light, HI-C scientists hope to observe fundamental structures on the sun, as narrow as 100 miles across.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the University of Central Lancashire in Lancashire, England, have signed a Space Act Agreement that formally establishes a relationship to work together on the High Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, a telescope designed to take the highest resolution images of the solar atmosphere to date.

Understanding the sun's activity and its effects on Earth's environment by providing unique and unprecedented views of the dynamic activity in the solar atmosphere is central to the scientific objective of Hi-C. Hi-C will image the Sun at a 10x higher resolution (0.1 arcsec/pixel image) than any previously done. Currently SDO is 1.4 arcsec/pixel.

The telescope is targeted for launch in 2012 on a NASA sounding rocket to be launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The intent of the mission is to demonstrate the technology necessary to collect images of the sun at a resolution of 150 km in the extreme ultraviolet spectrum, and to investigate the scientific value of the data - a key factor in improving the instrumentation used to advance our understanding of coronal physics, or the behavior of the outermost region of the sun's atmosphere.

Figure 1: The value of improved spatial resolution is shown by comparing simultaneous images from EIT (2.5 arcsec pixels) and TRACE (0.5 arcsec pixels). The Hi-C spatial resolution will be an additional factor of 5 higher.

"This instrument we will build, as a result of this agreement between NASA and the University of Central Lancashire, could push the limits on theories of coronal heating-why the temperature of the Sun's corona is millions of degrees higher than that of the surface and dynamics," said Marshall astrophysicist, Dr. Jonathan Cirtain. "Hinode has shown that current instrumentation used for coronal structure studies has insufficient resolution to separate individual features along the line-of-sight. Hi-C will accomplish this measurement, with margin.

About the Imaging System
The Apogee Hi-C imaging system is based on a customized version of the E2V CCD203 obtained from Lockheed Martin, a very large 4 channel back illuminated 4K x 4K CCD with 12u pixels. Cooling is provided from a LN2 cooling block using thermal straps.

E2V CCD203 Variant used in the Hi-C camera

Comparison of the size of the CCD203 used in Hi-C and the Ascent camera

The HiC camera (Orange) is part of the Hi-C payload to be flown on top of a Black Brant sounding rocket.
Video showing the rocket launch of our first flight camera (Windows WMV)
Movie showing how the sounding rocket deploys (Quicktime MOV)

Sounding Rocket Architecture

Launch Detail showing segments of launch, experiment and recovery

What makes a space based camera more difficult to design?
Above the atmosphere and in a near vacuum, many materials used on the ground will outgas. These materials can be thought of as small aerosol cans spraying the ejected material and coating the optics and other critical surfaces. The consequences of such out gassing can be catastrophic to the mission. Additionally, there are three forms of thermal transfer including Conduction, Convection and Radiation. On the ground we count on convection through the air to remove heat from the camera. In space there is only conduction and radiation. What might run warm on the ground will burn up in space if a proper conductive path is not provided to the main structure. Other issues, such as vibration play a large part in high reliability camera design. Apogee has the unique expertise and experience to produce such systems.

Assembly is performed at our Roseville facility according to a strict procedure (left) and under video conference with NASA to witness the integration.

The Apogee Hi-C Imaging System undergoing vacuum testing at NASA.


In 1999, Apogee participated in a very similar project with NRL (Naval Research Laboratory).

Rocket Launch - White Sands

3k x 2k AP9 maging system

VAULT (Very high Angular resolution ULtraviolet Telescope)
Ever wonder what one of our custom 3k x 2k AP9 flight imaging systems can do above the earth's atmosphere?

VAULT is a new spectroscopic imaging instrument developed by the Solar Physics Branch of the Space Sciences Division of the Naval Research Laboratory for the study of the very fine-scale structures of the solar atmosphere. In its present configuration VAULT can obtain images of the chromoshere in the Lyman a line (1216 A) with the unprecedented resolution of 0.25" (<200 km).

VAULT Solar Image

VAULT is flown as a sounding rocket payload and is the successor to the NRL High Resolution Telescope and Spectrograph (HRTS) payload that pioneered high spatial resolution observations in the far-UV since 1975.

The first VAULT launch took place on May 7, 1999 at White Sands Missile Range and was a success!

What does all this mean for our product lines used on the ground?
Our focus on continuous improvement, quality, reliability, and design details including a conservative approach to temperature control are rooted in our knowledge of high reliability space-based applications. All of the cameras that Apogee produces are designed, assembled and tested with the same quality discipline used for our flight cameras.

Let our team support your science!

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