July 27th, 2006

Space Shuttle's vision-guided robot arm captures tile images'

News from Vision Systems Design


During the recent STS-121 mission, NASA’s Discovery Space Shuttle deployed an imaging system mounted at the end of the Shuttle’s 50-ft robotic arm to inspect the craft’s thermal protection system. NASA used several Adimec (Stoneham, MA, USA; www.adimec.com) high-performance 2000m cameras, which were coupled to a Pleora Technologies (Ottawa, ON, Canada; www.pleora.com) iPort IP engine to enable high-resolution images to be streamed to a laptop inside the Shuttle over a standard Ethernet link.

The crew controlled the camera via the IP engine as they inspected the thermal shields. These images were analyzed for details such as the gap filler between tiles to assess potential damage and overall shuttle safety. The Discovery flight was the most photographed shuttle mission in the program, with more than 100 high-definition, digital, video, and film cameras documenting the launch and climb to orbit.

The selection of the high-resolution cameras required that the products be commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. However, the cameras also needed to offer enough durability and performance to provide flawless images in space and on the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew landed on July 17, 2006, after a 13-day, five million-mile journey. The mission succeeded in testing Shuttle safety
improvements, repairing a rail car on the International Space Station, and producing never-before-seen, detailed images of the shuttle during and after its July 4 launch.


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