Private satellite cameras are expensive, limited, and difficult to develop. Smallsat manufacturer NanoAvionics recently avoided any development issues and opted for something off the shelf instead. The company used a GoPro Hero 7 camera mounted on a specially designed selfie stick to take a truly out-of-this-world selfie.
NanoAvionics’s MP42 mini satellite bus Take a 12MP selfie at 342 miles (550 km) above the Australian Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef, according to press release. The private company, which has offices in the US, UK and Lithuania, says it’s “the first-ever full-resolution 4K satellite selfie in space with an immersive view of Earth.” The satellite, along with two other NanoAvionics buses, Launched to space in April aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Typical cameras used for these types of applications lack sufficient resolution, are expensive, take a long time to develop, and do not always provide an immersive view. The GoPro Hero 7 was considered a good solution, but some modifications were needed. In addition to stripping the camera to its “naked bones,” the engineers “made a custom housing for the electronics, built a custom ‘selfie stick’ and developed electronics to control the camera and special software to communicate with satellite systems,” the company explained. The engineers also “rigorously tested it to demonstrate its ability to Withstand the harsh environment of a rocket launch as well as the vacuum and massive temperature fluctuations in space.”
“The reason for taking the photo and video with the Great Barrier Reef in the background was partly symbolic,” Fitnes Pozas, co-founder and CEO of NanoAvionics, said in the press release. “We wanted to highlight the vulnerability of our planet and the importance of Earth observation by satellite, especially to monitor environmental and climate changes.”
The company said it is using GoPro to test and verify satellite operations, as well as to test new PC load controller 2.0 Linux running. The payload controller optimizes downlinks for “applications that require internal processing of large data packets,” according to NanoAvionics. The company hopes that the camera will provide visual inspections of payloads, confirmation of successful deployment of things like antennas and solar panels, detection of damage and other physical anomalies such as small impacts caused by micro-meteorites, and for use as a tool for educational purposes. Similar settings to continuously monitor satellites can also be used to assess changing conditions over time.
Satellites are increasingly being used by the private sector to look at the Earth, in addition to themselves. In April, San Francisco-based Planet Labs announce Its plans to deploy a global constellation of 32 Earth observation satellites. Incredibly, these satellites will collectively be able to track a single place dozens of times each day with accuracy good enough to find a toaster. Colorado-based Maxar Technologies boasts a constellation of satellites with similar capabilities.
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