JEM-EUSO is a space observatory that will be attached to the Japanese module of the International Space Station (ISS) to observe the UV photon tracks produced by Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECR) interacting with atmospheric nuclei. The observatory comprises an Atmospheric Monitoring System (AMS) to gather data about the status of the atmosphere, including an infrared camera (IRCAM) for cloud coverage and cloud top height detection. This paper describes the design and characterization tests of IRCAM, which is the responsibility of the Spanish JEM-EUSO Consortium. The core of IRCAM is a 640x480 microbolometer array, the ULIS 04171, sensitive to radiation in the range 7 to 14 microns. The microbolometer array has been tested using the Front End Electronics Prototype (FEEP). This custom designed electronics corresponds to the Breadboard Model, a design built to verify the camera requirements in the laboratory. The FEEP controls the configuration of the microbolometer, digitizes the detector output, sends data to the Instrument Control Unit (ICU), and controls the microbolometer temperature to a 10 mK stability. Furthermore, the FEEP allows IRCAM to preprocess images by the addition of a powerful FPGA. This prototype has been characterized in the laboratories of Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC). Main results, including detector response as a function of the scene temperature, NETD and Non-Uniformity Correction (NUC) are shown. Results about thermal resolution meet the system requirements with a NETD lower than 1K including the narrow band filters which allow us to retrieve the clouds temperature using stereovision algorithms.