[camera schematic] The SSI Camera

The Galileo Orbiter carries a 1500-mm (59-inch) focal length narrow-angle telescope inherited from Voyager. Along with an image sensor, filter wheel, focal plane shutter, and electronics, this forms the solid-state imaging subsystem (SSI).

"The design of the SSI was dictated by a combination of goals and constraints," explains SSI science coordinator Ken Klaasen. "The need to study both atmospheric motion and geologic formations dictates a high-resolution camera with as large a field of view as possible, while the need to study the composition of satellite surfaces and the vertical structure of features in Jupiter's atmosphere dictates the use of seven spectral filters within the range 400 to 1100 nanometers plus a 'clear' filter. Accurate mapping and atmospheric velocity measurements require a camera with excellent geometric fidelity, while precise photometric requirements demand a linear detector, stable calibration, and adequate data encoding. Low lighting situations, such as observations of the auroras, lightning, and ring system, require a detector of very high sensitivity and an optical system with low scattered light. Constraints on the design included limitations on the available telemetry rate, potential image smearing caused by residual motions in the scan platform, use of large amounts of shielding, to protect the instrument from Jupiter's harsh radiation environment, limited electrical power and mass, and protection from contamination during launch and from propellant by-products in flight."

Since the SSI's wavelength range extends from the visible into the near-infrared, the experimenters will be able to map variations in the satellites' color and albedo (reflectivity) that show differences in the composition of surface materials.

The SSI's near-infrared filters will allow us to "see" at different levels in the atmosphere to study relationships among vertical structure, color, and morphology.

The imaging instrument is mounted with three other optical instruments on a movable platform on the nonspinning portion of the Orbiter. This scan platform can be slewed up, down, or sideways to point the instruments. The optical axes of the instruments--the SSI, the near-infrared mapping spectrometer, the ultraviolet spectrometer, and the photopolarimeter-radiometer--are aligned so they are looking at the same areas, so that their data can be easily correlated. For example, the use of Voyager's imaging in the visible and infrared data from an infrared spectrometer (IRIS) confirmed the possibility and extent of lava lakes on Io.

"The SSI uses a Cassegrain telescope with a 176.5-mm (7-inch) aperture, and a fixed focal ratio of f/8.5," explains retired instrument manager Maurice Clary. "It is focused on infinity. Light from a scene is collected on an 800 line by 800 column solid-state silicon image sensor array called a charge-coupled device (CCD). Charge is transferred by rapidly cycling the voltage level applied to the 640,000 gates in this integrated circuit. Analog video data from the CCD are converted to digital bits and sent to the spacecraft tape recorder for temporary storage. During the cruise portion of each orbit, the data are played back off the recorder, edited and/or compressed by the spacecraft's computers, and transmitted to Earth. There, the data is relayed from the tracking stations to image reconstruction computer at JPL"


An eight-position filter wheel is stepped on command to obtain images of scenes through eight different filters, which may then be combined electronically at Earth to produce color images. There are 28 selectable exposure times between 0.004 and 51.2 seconds. Galileo's spectral range is three times that of Voyager, and operates much farther into the infrared part of the spectrum. Its field of view is 8.13 x 8.13 milliradians. The resolution is about 34 line pairs (of the 800 x 800 sensor array) per millimeter. Since high levels of neutrons emitted by Galileo's onboard power sources could degrade the image quality, the camera's CCD is cooled to 163 K (-166 deg F) to eliminate the problem. The CCD is protected from high energy particle irradiation from Jupiter's magnetosphere by a 1-cm-thick tantalum shield. While transient radiation-induced effects may be seen when the spacecraft is in the heaviest radiation environment near Jupiter, no damage is expected up to a total radiation dose of 1000 J/kg (100,000 rads).


The SSI was designed and assembled at JPL. It weighs 29.7 kilograms (65 pounds) and draws 15 watts. Texas Instruments provided the virtual phase CCD detector. The SSI uses RCA 1802 microprocessors to electronically control the camera and contains 600 integrated circuits. The telescope, shutter, and filters were inherited from Voyager, but have been improved to better reject off-axis scattered light. The electronics chassis was fabricated on a numerically-controlled machine at JPL.

The CCD inside the camera

The CCD array was built by a research team at Texas Instruments (Dallas) and at JPL. The leaders of that development were Morley Blouke at TI and Dave Norris and Fred Vescelus at JPL.

The detector is a virtual phase CCD in which the pixel structure is defined by ionic implants. It is thick and frontside illuminated. It is also packaged and surrounded by a tantalum radiation shield. Out of several thousand attempt only 2 detectors of flight quality where made. The original plan was to fly a thinned 3-phase device - but this was abandoned because under irradiation by high energy particles the applied voltages could not be adequately controlled and the full-well capacities were too small. Hubble ST cameras latter picked up the 3-phase developement (as did the the astronomical ground based community) which was pioneered for this application by the Galileo development project.

The Brain Transplant

The High Gain Antenna (HGA) problem caused a rewrite of the entire flight software. The project manager compares this to a "brain transplant". For imaging, this led to the development of new camera operation modes and to the dependence on Integer Cosine Transform (ICT) compression for downlinking image data. The ICT is not used for all data - some will be returned via a "BARC" (Block Adaptive Rate Controlled) compressor which is a hardwired capability in the camera system. BARC compression gives gains of a factor of 2.54 and can be either lossless or lossey. The ICT compression can give much larger compression ratios (many ten's - but we plan to restrict the compression factors between 5 and 15 approximately). ICT compression is inherently lossy. With the latter there may be some blockiness appearing in the highest contrast images. The ICT works on 8x8 pixel blocks.

"While the SSI technology is 1970-80's vintage, it was pioneered by the Galileo project. The camera has operated flawlessly and the early images indicate that it has now produced the finest planetary images ever taken and with a resolution and wavelength range previously unavailable.

Moreover, there is much more to come!" - Michael J. S. Belton, SSI Team Leader

Most of the information on this page was taken from Issue 12, December, 1984, of the Galileo Messenger and NASA publication SP-479, Galileo: Exploration of Jupiter's System.

o Return to SSI Education and Public Outreach Homepage

Galileo Solid State Imaging Team Leader: Dr. Michael J. S. Belton

The SSI Education and Public Outreach webpages were originally created and managed by Matthew Fishburn and Elizabeth Alvarez with significant assistance from Kelly Bender, Ross Beyer, Detrick Branston, Stephanie Lyons, Eileen Ryan, and Nalin Samarasinha.

Last updated: September 17, 1999, by Matthew Fishburn

Return to Project Galileo Homepage

Website Curator: Leslie Lowes

Website Feedback: Jayne Dutra