Spacecraft microchips

Spacecraft microchips

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Credit: ESA-Guus Schoonewille/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Spacecraft microchips. Silicon wafer etched with multiple integrated circuits for space missions. This 20 cm-diameter wafer is packaged in anti-static and anti-shock foam padding, and contains 35 replicas of five different space chips. Laid down within a microchip, these designs endow a space mission with intelligence, and the ability to perform various specialised tasks such as data handling and communications processing. To save money, various chips destined for multiple ESA (European Space Agency) projects are crammed onto the same silicon wafer, etched into place at specialised semiconductor plants, in this case LFoundry (formerly Atmel), France. Once tested for functionality, the chips on the wafer are chopped up and packaged for use, then mounted.

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