The first images from the Spitzer Space Telescope unveiled last month were made possible by infrared detectors from Raytheon Company. The detectors, manufactured by Raytheon Vision Systems (RVS), enable images that are the next step beyond the famed Hubble telescope. RVS has been working on the technology leading to the Spitzer Space Telescope for 20 years.
The detectors Raytheon delivered for Spitzer are 100 times more sensitive than those available in the mid-1980s when the project began. The images from Spitzer combined technology advances from two types of infrared detectors. One detector is made from indium antimonide, which is sensitive to the mid-infrared band. The other is a doped silicon detector, sensitive in the long-wave infrared range. Together, these detectors make color images of galaxies and stars possible.
Raytheon is a provider in low-light imaging. RVS has received a contract for the infrared detectors on NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is expected to launch in 2011. JWST is the next-generation space telescope for astronomy. This observatory will have more than 20 times the number of detector elements with better sensitivity, enabling even greater resolution and imagery.