Image Sensors Provide Mission-Critical Data for Space Flight

Kodak CCD image sensors
Eastman Kodak, Image Sensor Solutions
Rochester, NY

Kodak digital technology was used on the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was launched on May 28, to capture critical images and help safeguard the well-being of shuttle astronauts during re-entry back to Earth. The image sensors are a key component of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), an inflight 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.

Used across the shuttle fleet, the OBSS incorporates a camera that is based on the Kodak KAI-2093 Image Sensor, a 1920 x 1080 interline transfer CCD imager that provides up to 30 images per second for high-definition image capture. This camera is used to inspect the leading edges of the wings, nose cap, and crew compartment after each liftoff and before each landing. The resulting high-resolution images from the OBSS are then analyzed to assess any potential spacecraft damage that may have occurred.

ImageThe CCD image sensors also power the Earth Viewing Camera, which was launched in February. The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-point Earth-observing camera on the International Space Station (ISS) that is designed to capture color images of the Earth’s surface to help increase public awareness of the ISS. The camera is based on the Kodak KAI- 4021 Image Sensor, a 4-megapixel device with electronic shuttering capability.

Since 1995, shuttle astronauts have used a series of handheld Kodak Professional DCS cameras to capture high-resolution images of their activities while in space. These cameras, all utilizing CCD image sensors, have captured over 130,000 images, and remain in operation for use on both the shuttle and ISS. The CCD image sensors can also be found in orbit around the Earth, Mars, Venus, and on the surface of Mars. Upcoming missions will expand the use of the image sensors to include satellites in orbit around the Moon and Jupiter.

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