Astronomy and astrophysics are fields of constant growth and exploration, and discoveries are being made every day. Behind each discovery, however, is the equipment and engineering that makes that science possible. The science and engineering go hand in hand in two ways: advances in engineering make new scientific discoveries possible, and new scientific questions create the need for more advanced engineering. The work that led to this thesis is an example of the latter statement. The big-picture goal is to support the development of next-generation detectors such as the Quanta Image Sensor (QIS), a gigapixel-scaleble Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) photon-number resolving image sensor. This thesis focuses on one crucial part of the development process: the characterisation of the QIS. In order to advance the NASA Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from three to four, the detector needs to undergo extensive laboratory and telescope environment testing. The testing framework is being run by an FPGA hardware design that includes a processor, and this set of hardware and software is responsible for operating the detector, managing experiment parameters, running experiments, and collecting resultant data and passing it to a host PC. The majority of the work of this portion of the project revolved around creating, improving, and testing the framework to allow for fully functional and automated detector characterisation. Test systems already exist for the QIS in a room temperature environment, as well as for current-generation image sensors in cryogenic vacuum environments. However, there is no existing test system that allows the QIS to be tested in a cryo-vac environment. This thesis details a functional system that fills that niche. The system is built to be modular and extensible so that it can be expanded upon to characterise other types of detectors in the future as well. For now, however, the system shines as the only one that allows the QIS to be tested in an environment that simulates its behaviour in outer space.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Imaging systems in astronomy--Technological innovations; Image converters--Thermal properties; Field programmable gate arrays

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Computer Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Computer Engineering (KGCOE)


Don Figer

Advisor/Committee Member

Amlan Ganguly

Advisor/Committee Member

Andreas Savakis


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes