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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Imaging in Space

Space shuttles and Mars missions require performance, sensitivity and ruggedness
Astronaut Garrett Reisman
© NASA
Astronaut Garrett Reisman, STS-124 mission specialist, looks over a checklist while holding a camera in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery is docked with the station. The astronaut is holding a Kodak DCS camera.
The Daily weather data for Mars is collected by the orbiter using the Mars Color Imager
© NASA
The Daily weather data for Mars is collected by the orbiter using the Mars Color Imager (MARCI). The data includes phenomena like dust devils, as seen in this image taken earlier this year.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
© NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) is designed to obtain grayscale (black & white) images of Mars at 6 meters per pixel scale over a swath 30 kilometers wide.
terra sirenum crater on Mars
© NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
The largest numbers of gullies on Mars are on the walls of southern hemisphere craters. During southern winter, many of the gullied walls are in shadow. It has been known for many years from Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera images that frost forms on these shadowed slopes and that differences in the amount or nature of the frost deposits highlight the gully floors and deposits. CTX acquired this image of the terra sirenum crater where gullies were known to display frost during winter.
50-foot robotic arm
© Adimec
An Adimec camera and Kodak sensors are key components of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), an in-flight imaging system attached to the end of a 50-foot robotic arm that is used by shuttle astronauts to scan the underside of the orbiter for possible damage before landing. 
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By Barry Hochfelder

THE SPACE SHUTTLE

Astronaut safety is, of course, a primary concern. Inspection and safety improvements are ongoing. An Adimec (Stoneham, Mass.) camera and Kodak CCD sensors are key components of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), an in-flight imaging system attached to the end of a 50-foot robotic arm that is used by shuttle astronauts to scan the underside of the orbiter for possible damage before landing. It examines the leading edges of the wings, nose cap and crew compartment. The resulting high-resolution images are then analyzed to assess any potential spacecraft damage that may have occurred during lift-off or while in flight.

This system now is available throughout the entire shuttle fleet to examine critical external surfaces before re-entry. The sensor is a 1920 x 1080 interline transfer CCD imager that provides up to 30 images per second for high-definition image capture. The camera was added to the OBSS after the "Return to Flight" mission of Discovery in 2005. The OBSS was last used on the space shuttle Discovery (STS-124), which launched on May 31.

Adimec provided multiple high-performance cameras to NASA that were coupled to a Pleora (Kanata, Ontario, Canada) iPort IP engine. This enables high-resolution images to be streamed to a laptop inside the shuttle over a standard Ethernet link. The imaging system is mounted at the end of the space shuttle's 50-foot robotic arm and is controlled by the crew. NASA's OBSS system on this robotic arm is used to inspect and measure defects in the shuttle's outer "skin," particularly in the heat tile area, the reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) wing, and the nose cap.

For NASA's Discovery mission STS-121 (July, 2006), high-resolution images from the Adimec camera system were analyzed for fine details, such as the gap filler between tiles, to determine any potential risks to the shuttle safety. For both STS-115 and STS-116, Adimec's cameras were used during flight surveys of the RCC wing leading edge and nose cap surfaces to confirm that no damage was present.

A camera aboard the International Space Station is designed to capture color images of the Earth's surface to help increase public awareness of the Space Station. Installed in February 2008, the camera is based on the Kodak KAI-4021 Image Sensor, a four-megapixel device that includes electronic shuttering capability, a feature critical to preserving the robustness of this camera design by eliminating the need for a mechanical shutter.



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