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Hunting for Water in the Atmosphere with JPL / NASA

Mounting a Microchip Die for Testing a Radio-Frequency Integrated Circuit

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally-funded research and development center, managed by Caltech. Responsible for developing new technologies to further explore the universe, JPL has been at the forefront of climate change research. JPL / NASA is flying the Airborne Scanning Microwave Limb Sounder (A-SMLS) aboard the ER-2 high altitude aircraft to measure naturally-occurring microwave thermal emission from the limb of Earth to remotely sense and analyze atmospheric gasses. Once the aircraft reaches 70,000 feet, the A-SMLS analyzes water vapor, ozone, and other trace stratospheric gasses using a custom designed remote sensing spectrometer microchip that captures spectral data, processes and identifies the chemical markers inside. 

Normally, chips are encased in a plastic enclosure to protect them. The enclosure does however cause a small parasitic loss in efficiency. Due to the high-efficiency requirements of this mission, Second Order Effects (SOE) has a long history of working on aerospace projects that require high-effiency bare die bonding, and began working on JPL on this project.In less than two months, SOE designed a test board with custom footprint, rearranging the pins and adding a regulator to reduce the amount of coupling that occurred between board components. 

Once proven on ASMLS, NASA is planning to deploy their SX microchip on additional missions, including sub-orbital flights, satellites, and beyond.

JPL’s SX Test board, designed by SOE