DRS Technologies and NASA have jointly developed a photon-counting mid-infrared detector that works to support remote-sensing applications in spaceflight and have been integrated into two new aircraft instruments.
The space agency said Tuesday Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Xiaoli Sun worked with DRS to develop what NASA calls a “first-of-its-kind” detector, which is made of the mercury cadmium telluride alloy or HgCdTe.
“Existing detectors can only detect signals containing hundreds of photons per pulse,” Sun said.
“It is the combination of the HgCdTe material and a near-noiseless avalanche photo-electron multiplication process that made [the new detector] possible.”
According to NASA, the mid-infrared detector works with lidar and has also been installed on instruments developed by Goddard scientists Jim Abshire and Harris Riris for the agency’s proposed Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days and Seasons program.
NASA added that the detector can also be used for laser altimetry in the proposed Lidar Surface Topography mission as well as other applications.