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Old May 28th, 2008, 01:28 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2008
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(Theoretical) HD Cam for Space / Lunar Use

My class and I are working on a space mission to the south pole of the moon. An important requirement is to use an HD camcorder on both the lander and the robotic rover to record key moments of the mission, namely landing, beginning to rove, roving, and finishing the journey. Everything must be done autonomously or remotely, as the only human interactions will be from ground control on Earth.

The plan is to build an HD camcorder from commercially available products. Consumer-quality HD camcorders, i.e. the ones you can get from Best Buy etc., are assumed to not work in space for the following reasons:

-Temperature: We are looking at ambient temperatures of -50 C (give or take 10 C).

-Overheating: In a vacuum, there is no air to cool down a device. Things that generate heat in a concentrated area, such as a processor, will heat up faster than its neighboring components as well. Thermal radiation is the only natural way of cooling down a device, or else you would need to have heat sinks.

-Mission Requirements:
-- Power Consumption: To give you an idea on how much power our ENTIRE rover generates, at maximum power usage we are around 52 watts. That is less than a lightbulb (60 watts). A Panasonic AG-HVX200 draws 11.6 watts.

--Size: The goal is to put the "eyes" of our robot on top of a 5-foot camera mast, to simulate what a human would see on the surface. A big camera would make this mast unstable. The entire rover is also limited to be as small as possible, as every gram we put onto the rover exponentially raises the cost of the mission.

--Output: The footage must be recorded in color (doesn't matter if it is 1 CCD or 3) at 720p resolution at a maximum requirement of 15 fps. Hopefully the feed can be immediately sent to a hard drive, either with or without compression. The camcorder will also act as a digital camera and take some stills.

Now I have little idea on how to go about this, so I thought the friendly people at this forum can help. I found a CMOS that seems appropriate for our mission (http://www.aptina.com/products/image...stc/#overview), but feel free to criticize me horribly. I've been reading about demo boards, but only enough to know that I might need one. I also have no idea what kind of lens array to use, but hopefully something standard, cheap, and efficient. Also, FYI, this mission is theoretical and has no real funding now, but it is competing in a national competition in Florida; maybe someone there might have a strong interest and actually launch this to the moon. Thanks!
Michael Lew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 28th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #2
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Seems like the guys at the JPL would be better to ask since they've probably already addressed this problem. But if it's only theoretical then deconstruct one of Aiptek's HD cams.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 03:46 PM   #3
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I'm curious, is this one in the same with the Google Lunar X-prize?
I wait for the day cost-efficient global shutter 60fps capable CMOS sensors emerge for use on major manufacturers' cameras. (Sony, Canon, etc.) Rolling Shutters are a plague.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 04:19 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Michael Lew View Post
-Temperature: We are looking at ambient temperatures of -50 C (give or take 10 C).
If I recall correctly, lunar surface temperatures vary from +100 C to -150 C, and even more extreme at the poles.

DV Info Net is very proud to have a real-life rocket scientist as a key moderator here (Pete Bauer), but he's tied
up with the Discovery launch at the moment. Expect him back after the conclusion of the STS-124 mission.

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Old May 28th, 2008, 04:27 PM   #5
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Not sure how realistic an exercise you want this to be for your class, but the lunar surface is a lot harsher than you're giving it credit for. Some factors:

- Rapid transition between approx -190 to +250F from shadow to sunlit areas
- Extreme contrast/shadowing
- Visible light will be 30-50% more intense than typical earth-based mid-latitude noon brightness
- Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR), high energy particles that will gradually kill the photo sites in your sensor and other parts like recording devices. Need robust/redundant systems to avoid a short service life and data losses
- Unpredictable solar particle events, when they reach your device, will generate energy flux that drives electrical surges through your system's circuitry
- Hard vacuum
- Lunar dust is extremely abrasive and more chemically reactive than typical earth dust due to micrometeroid and GCR bombardment over the eons, and no atmosphere to react with
- 1/6th gravity allows any dust generated to fly 6 times higher/further than you're accustomed to and the lack of an atmosphere means all particles large and small fall parabolically right back down to whatever is in their path
- Minimum approx 1.5 second transit time (almost 3 seconds for a round trip of image and command) for signal to reach earth. That's not counting any signal processing time
- Time constraint: NASA is already billions of dollars ahead of you in developing a presence at Shackleton Crater near the lunar South Pole. If we get there first, better not land on top of our stuff or some big guys in dark suits and shiny eyeshades may knock at your door!
But other than that, it should be easy! You've got 10 years...GO!

EDIT: Well, I'm not exactly a rocket scientist. I'm a flight doc. Flew to The Cape today about 30 minutes ahead of the crew, and so far all looks really good for a Saturday launch. But, hey, there's only about a million moving parts in a Space Shuttle...
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Old May 29th, 2008, 02:06 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Pete Bauer View Post
But other than that, it should be easy! You've got 10 years...GO!

So NASA is going for lunarbase alpha?
Hope they do better than that old tv-series ;)
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