The CCD remains the preeminent visible and ultra-violet wavelength image sensor in space-science, Earth and planetary remote sensing. However, the design of space-qualified CCD readout electronics is a significant challenge with requirements for low-volume, low-mass, low-power, high-reliability and sufficient tolerance to the effects of space radiation.
We describe our programme to develop science-grade CMOS active pixel sensors for future space science missions, and in particular an extreme ultra-violet spectrograph for solar physics studies on the ESA Solar Orbiter. Our goal is the development of a large format 4k x 4k pixel CMOS sensor with useful sensitivity in the extreme ultra-violet (EUV) for solar physics spectroscopy and imaging. Our route to EUV sensitivity relies primarily in adapting the back-thinning and rear-illumination techniques first developed for CCD sensors; however we are also exploring the alternative approach of using a front-etch to expose the CMOS photodiodes. We have successfully back-thinned several 525 x 525 prototype CMOS sensors and proved that the devices survived the process both structurally and functionally. We have also been successful in removing the oxide from the front side of a small array of pixels, using focused ion beam etching. Preliminary results from these pixels show they are sensitive in the Ultra Violet. We have also designed a working large format 4k x 3k prototype on a 0.25 micron CMOS imager process.