ROCHESTER, N.Y. CCD image sensors from Kodak's Image Sensor Solutions group will scan the shuttle Discovery for damaged heat tiles. Discovery is scheduled for launch on May 31.
The Kodak sensors are designed into the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), which will provide images of the spacecraft to ensure that no damage occurred during lift-off or in-flight. The system is designed into the entire shuttle fleet to examine critical external surfaces before re-entry.
Kodak's KAI-2093 image sensor is designed into the OBSS in-flight imaging system attached to the end of a 50-foot robotic arm used by shuttle astronauts to scan the underside of the orbiter for possible damage before landing.
The OBSS camera, designed by advanced camera systems producer Adimec, uses the 1,920 by 1,080 interline transfer CCD imager to provide up to 30 images per second for high-definition image capture. The sensor includes an electronic shuttering capability, a feature Kodak said is critical to the robustness of a camera design by eliminating the need for a mechanical shutter.
Added to the OBSS after a Discovery mission in 2005, the camera is used to inspect the leading edges of the wings, nose cap and crew compartment after each lift-off and before each landing.
This is not the first time that Kodak's CCD image sensors have been used in camera systems operated by astronauts during shuttle missions and on the International Space Station (ISS). The image sensors also power the handheld digital cameras used by astronauts to capture images from space, as well as the recently launched Earth Viewing Camera on the ISS. Kodak said the space-based products use image sensors that are unmodified from those available from Kodak for consumer use.
The Earth Viewing Camera, installed on the ISS in February, is based on Kodak's KAI-4021 Image Sensor, a 4-megapixel device that also includes an electronic shuttering capability.
"Both of these sensors--the KAI-2093 and KAI-4021--are interline transfer devices so they both have electronic shutters, which eliminate the need for a mechanical shutter," said Michael DeLuca, marketing manager for Image Sensor Solutions at Eastman Kodak Co. "Being able to eliminate the mechanical shutter in the design becomes relevant in terms of making sure it continues working."
DeLuca said the sensors are not modified, and were designed for use in a number of markets such as industrial, medical and scientific. The sensor used on the space shuttle is a catalog part and is used in other applications. The sensor used in the Earth Viewing Camera is also used in industrial and medical applications, he said.
"The sensors coming off our production line are the same quality that allowed them to be used in these space applications."
The sensors were selected based on a combination of image quality performance features such as resolution, dynamic range and light sensitivity as well as robustness, providing reproducible and reliable performance under a number of conditions, DeLuca said.
The Kodak sensors are also in use on other NASA and European Space Agency ESA missions to both Mars and Venus, including the Mars Odyssey Orbiter, Mars Express, Venus Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Upcoming missions will include satellites in orbit around both the Moon and Jupiter.