Capturing the perfect photo 220 miles away from the Earth’s surface, while orbiting in space at thousands of miles per hour, is a unique challenge. NASA, the global leader in space flight and aeronautics, developed a camera system that collects targeted imagery of events and locations on Earth’s surface; this resource helps expedite disaster response teams and supports education and outreach.
NASA’s Geocam team was looking to automate the photo location documentation process, and sought out Mindtribe’s mechanical expertise to design and fabricate a custom sensor housing that would attach to the high-end cameras used by astronauts.
The Mindtribe team had to quickly turn a research project prototype into flight-ready hardware that would be used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The intricate module had to be compact and easy for astronauts to use, while meeting very stringent safety and material restrictions imposed by NASA for ISS equipment.
Mindtribe was also asked to finalize all of the user and technical features while the Geocam team was still completing internal components. This required close collaboration and multiple prototype iterations. Feedback from other NASA stakeholders, such as the safety review board, needed to be incorporated without delaying the program schedule.
Mindtribe engineered and implemented the mechanical design for the orientation sensor module. The design incorporated multiple camera sensors, accelerometers, WiFi antennas, battery power, and adherence to stringent material requirements mandated by NASA. The team also provided technical guidance related to optical layout, PCBA numbers and sizes, and LED arrays.
Mindtribe’s expertise in manufacturability and close collaboration with the NASA Geocam team were crucial in enabling the development of this new tool within a very short timeframe.
With a schedule for use in 2017, the product has gone from concept to real-life rocket launch in two years — a remarkably accelerated timeline for creating launch-ready hardware.