Legacy NASA spacecraft windows suffer from specialized costs and operational constraints associated with embedding optically transparent apertures within structures that are designed to maximize strength, safety, and environmental integrity. A new approach to the legacy window solution may lead to a substantial decrease in program costs, while also enhancing crew safety and functional capability. The project includes integration of tiled displays, scene-stitching software, multiple cameras with real-time video imagery, and alternative display configurations and control input methods for scene and perspective change.
Supplementing optical windows, the use of electronic windows simplifies and opens up the trade options for future designs of external structures, especially under the extended environmental demands of long-duration exploration.
One important feature necessary to emulate a real window is to offer the ability to inspect a field of view by matching viewer orientation to an appropriate camera or camera angle and its associated field of view, thereby allowing the user to inspect the surrounding environment. To do this, the key technical challenge of streaming what appears to be panoramic video to the displays must be overcome. This is done with scene-stitching algorithms that work with live video feeds without perceptible latency effects and significant loss of resolution.
The Virtual Windows prototype features tiled or matrixed displays, two to four cameras, and camera control configurations, as well as a development board with FPGA and supporting firmware for scene stitching. A real-time video aspect could supplement or replace recorded video used in commercial applications where interactive and scenic views are used for aesthetic and psychological benefits, as well as for security and entertainment applications.
This work was done by Helen Neighbors, Glen Steele, Kien Nguyen, Victor J. Studer, Max Haddock, and Kenneth Fisher of Johnson Space Center. MSC-25927-1