The Satellite ‘Selfie’: Start of a Trend?

There have been multiple cases over the past few years where satellites had problems deploying their antennas or solar arrays after launch. Would a camera on the satellite make it easier to see what was happening and perhaps craft a better solution? That question came to mind when I saw a new release from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd that included a “selfie” from TechDemoSat-1 showing spacecraft's Antenna Point Mechanism (the horn is clearly visible) with Earth in the background. Compared to the cost to build and launch a satellite into space, the cost of a camera or two to check out a satellite once in space doesn't seem that high.

The inspection camera is mounted on the exterior of the spacecraft and will be used to monitor the behavior of key mechanical payloads. It combines a color CMOS camera with a high performance machine vision lens. It was designed with a depth of field able to deliver an in-focus image of the Antenna Pointing Mechanism as well as the Earth in the background.

SSTL said its optics experts used commercial-off-the-shelf technologies and combined a color CMOS camera with a high performance machine vision lens. Both the camera and lens were stripped down and ruggedized to survive the vibration and shock loads experienced during launch.

TechDemoSat-1 is based on the SSTL-150 platform. It was funding in part by a grant from U.K.'s Technology Strategy Board and South East England Development Agency. It carries eight separate payloads from UK academia and industry.

Given the cost of today's communications satellites, adding a camera could be helpful in the case of deployment problems and provide great photos for a press release if everything goes fine. See the picture and learn more see the news release SSTL marks completion of TechDemoSat-1 LEOP phase with a "selfie".

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.